23rd of December: Antarctica


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 the porthole in my cabin, as they smash their 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 this 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. The path meanders up the slope and 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 feels unreal and very kitsch in places. The breaking 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 next Sno-Cat to take me up to the base. Standing with my baggage on the sea-ice next to the ship.

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