“Antarctica looks stunning in white and she knows it”
Antarctica has been depicted as a seductress many times, playing on the trope of the pole as a sleeping beauty. Amundsen knew the continent as a ‘she’, writing ‘Beauty is still sleeping, but the kiss is coming, the kiss that will wake her’ (The South Pole, 1912). Bill Manhire expanded on it, talking of a ‘seductress’ and making sweet love. This idea seems to reinforce the notion that Antarctica is a masculine space, a space for men to act out their fantasies of conquering, of winning, of having the power to awaken with a kiss and, implicitly, from then on control. What is conquered is tamed, is obedient, is no longer a threat.
We have asked questions such as ‘what does it mean to be a tourist going to the ice? What does it mean to be a scientist? What does it mean to be a student, an ambassador? What about ‘what does it mean to be a woman’? For a female to head to the most barren, inhospitable continent on earth is contrary to the image of the apple, the age old tale of fertility and original sin. You can’t freeze apples, they oxidize. They don’t thaw out the same.
And how will we thaw out? Sore thumbs in a microbial landscape, digging holes in the snow under Dali’s sky. Magnifying, reflecting, analyzing.
What will we find?
Striations mark the progress of her sister lands and if we were less careful we might say she mourns the loss. Instead this land stays dry, a frozen, sliding mask that betrays little of the stony faces far below.
Antarctica holds many secrets within her belly that are yet to be discovered. Lake Vostock, a womb, laid out on the operating table awaiting the caesarean that will tear open the moist dark warmth, expose the microbes not yet ready to see the light. The kiss has been administered and she stirs, her sighs a surge of katabatic winds. She stretches, cracks her fingers to release tabular bergs into the sea. Her glacial fingers snatch at her abdomen, silent in their screams. And still they drill.