23rd of December: Antarctica

2005

Strange thing – but from a distance the ice cliffs of Antarctica looked vaguely like the low chalk cliffs of Ramsgate.

Everything here is implausibly white and blue – filming out of my porthole, as they smash they’re way through the sea ice to create a mooring point, I have to wear sunglasses just to look out. The snow and ice is sculpted and fractured into strange cartoon shapes. Where there’s a crack it does the trick of glowing from the inside – ‘gas-ring’ blue. The path that we’ll be taking up to the station is marked out with black oil drums and black fluttering flags on bamboo poles meandering up the slope through a gap in the ice-cliffs – all very minimal Japanese styling.

Scale is a weird killer here. Part of the dislocation is caused by all reference points having been removed – there’s no ‘thing’ to re-calibrate your senses against. Maybe when I can get off and look back at the boat it will start to makes sense but at the moment it’s a hallucinatory jumble of blue ice, white snow and grey sky. It’s actually very unreal and kitsch in places – the braking sea-ice cracks up in huge chunks like monstrous mint cake – blue inside with a coating of fluffy white. Startled emperor penguins look on – outraged that their backyard is being demolished.

I guess it does sort of look like Christmas – just a scary, grown-up, older-brother of Christmas.

I’m all packed and waiting for the Sno-Cat.