If Antarctica were music
“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” ― Andrew Denton
The final frontier of the world’s best travelled, Antarctica is unimaginably untamed, stark, cold and, yes, hauntingly beautiful, but what is it exactly about this great white continent that drives us to travel, quite literally, to the end of the earth to see it?
The abundance of wildlife is undeniably a drawcard. You will quite likely encounter a huge variety of penguins; adelie, gentoo, macaroni, chinstrap and rockhopper but the experience of standing on South Georgia Island, in the middle of thousands of one-metre-tall King penguins, their yellow-hued chests puffed out as they bustle around you tops them all and is one of the most memory-searing sights you will ever likely enjoy. And then there are wandering albatross, several species of seals, killer whales, minke and humpback whales… you might even be lucky enough to spot the largest animal in the world, the elusive, blue whale. There is an enormous variety of magnificent wildlife to observe but it is how regularly and closely you encounter them that really stands this region apart for wildlife lovers. Time in Antarctica is like a David Attenborough documentary unfolding in real time.
By necessity, all these animals are exceptionally hardy because, as many know, Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. Few realise however, this freezing white mass is also earth’s most mountainous continent. This combination means that you have ice in more mesmerising forms – shapes, colours and sizes - than you knew possible.
Leaning over the bow of your ship you will pass majestic tabular bergs taller than city-highrises, pinnacle bergs like radiant turquoise turrets that rise up from the great Southern Ocean and every now and then you will be treated to a giant ice shelf calving spectacularly into the inky blue waters below. This other-worldly glacial wonderland combines water, ice and light in a manner so beguiling it is impossible to imagine until you have witnessed it.
And yet for many, it is neither the incredible wildlife nor the mind-blowing natural beauty of the place that pulls them so deeply to Antarctica. It is the continent’s magical ability to disorient us - to make us believe we have travelled through time, to primordial lands pre-civilisation. To make us feel so incredibly small yet simultaneously expansive in the way only practised yogi’s talk of. It is perhaps, as Denton said, the realisation that ‘this is the only place on earth, that is actually as it should be’ and that it is ours and it exists. This awareness, that challenges our sense of what is real, gifts us a giddying sense of wonderment we left behind with childhood. May we never tame it!
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