The Beauty Stupor of AntarcticaJan 24, 2023
“The whole landscape showed design, like man’s noblest sculptures. How wonder the power of its beauty. Gazing awe-stricken, I might have left everything for it.”
John Muir-My First Summer in the Sierra-1868
John Muir never traveled to the Antarctic. The closest he got was into Alaska in 1879, in fact it would only be 3 years before Muir’s untimely death that Roald Amundsen hoisted the Norwegian flag at the most southernly of points in the world. Often times on my journey though South Georgia and Antarctica I found myself lost for worlds to describe that which was around and within me.
As a human I was overwhelmed by the landscape. As a photographer I was awestruck by the light and how it interacted with the landscape. Reflecting, refracting, lingering, and bending to accentuate in new ways rarely considered before. These magic moments of light did not last mere seconds, rather they lingered and very slowly changed.
I was struck not only by the beauty of the small scenes within this grand landscape but also by the enormity of this world. In our day to day lives we can see thousands of people and never be without reminders of human existence. For this trip we went days upon days with no signs or sounds of human existence beyond the hum of the ship engines or the sounds of our fellow passengers. Whatever filth existed was not from human hands, rather the natural process of consumption, digestion, and excretion.
A penguin highway between the Gentoo Penguin rookery and the seas in which they eat krill in which they secrete a pink byproduct.
What surprised me about Antarctica was not the wildlife or the amazing icebergs. It was the mountains. Majestical soaring peaks, pyramids, rounded behemoths, snowcapped monsters. Taken individually in another part of the world, they would easily constitute a National Park or National Treasure but in this landscape they blended together forming a tapestry of amazingness.
This world of wonder has the seen some of the most famous explorers of our time. Names like Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, and even Edmund Hilary. These legendary explores came to conquer this land, yet everywhere I looked I saw a landscape that had never felt the pressure of a human foot nor been closely examined to tell its secrets.
Shackleton’s Grave in Gritviken, South Georgia. He did not perish in his perilous journey as part of the Endurance expedition but passed only a few years after and permanently resides looking South towards Antarctica.
What was presented over my time was not the usual feeling one experiences in harsh environments of wanting to be sheltered from the outside world as we retreat from inclement weather, rather you wanted to be exposed to the richness of the lands. Finding a richness in the indifference and unwelcoming nature of this frozen landscape. There was a strange sense of wonder when you gazed upon the landscape and did not see any of the usual cues of life and safety.
Ice Begets Ice. Glorious ice covered mountains preside over their much smaller iceberg cousins.
In the journey of life that I am so privileged to experience and examine through my lens, this one stand outs. A feast of visual delights. So much rawness. Primal rawness in an area that has no land mammals, no trees, no lakes, no running water. All the life that exists comes directly from the ocean. Yet there is so much quiet, space, and desolation. Even if you wanted to travel south you are unable as the route is bound in snow. Even if you wanted to land and hike that peak, there is no place to land a boat.
A magical spire is guarded on its flanks by the glacier that extends into the water.
What I discovered is the Antarctic Peninsula is a continuation of the Andes. Separated by the Drake Passage if you look at the plates and geology it was once connected to South America and as the Gondwana continent split up 500 million years ago and continues to drift we have the majesty of South Georgia Island and the continuation down through the Antarctic Peninsula.
Whenever I venture into the Antarctic’s distant mountain relatives, I see the remnants of what a world without ice looks like. Antarctica remains cloaked, ready for its grand unveiling to showcase the majesty and beauty of its peaks once again. Places like this need to continue to exist within our world to simply give us the places we need to grow and understand more about ourselves. To give us the glimpses to the answers to questions of why we are even here, what does the world look like outside of what we read in books.
Antarctica is the kind of place that can put you into a beauty stupor.
Here is a link to one of the late night videos from the high deck of our ship cruising/
Here is a link to one of the videos from a magical early morning in Neko Harbour.
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