I read a little bit about Antarctica each day. It's a lovely discipline and meditation and I recommend this habit to all. Today, a grey and rainy day in San Francisco, I pulled down a copy of The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry Garrard. Many who think about such things call it the greatest "travel" book ever written. Whenever I hear the word, travel, I think of the French word, travail, work. Travelling around Antarctica is, indeed, a great deal of work. In fact, if you read or listen to polar explorers, the first thing you'll note is how much of the day is spent putting on and peeling off clothes.
(As to travel today in warmer climes: Just home from a reading at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, wherein my daughter and I were stranded in Denver for eight hours, then had to bargain with another stand-by passenger to get the last two seats to Cedar Rapids, air travel does feel like work.)
So. I found this bit from page 597 in Cherry's wonderful meditation on his travels and explorations in Antarctica:
"The man with nerves goes farthest. What is the ratio between nerves and physical energy? What is vitality? Why do some things terrify you at one time and not at others? What is the influence of the imagination?"
Many of the people who gathered at Prairie Lights for the reading were heading to or recently returned from their own Antarctic journeys. This continues to stun me. That is, 20 years ago, I recall pitching a story about how cruise ships would soon be headed to Antarctica. The editor of a major U.S. daily laughed and told me that sounded like "bull crap." He felt I had fallen under the sway of my Greenpeace hosts and was spouting activist rhetoric, rather than engaging with the news. I pleaded that many people were talking about this and it was, indeed, in the works.
That editor has long since retired but I have been tempted to write to him and announce that in the 2007-08 tourism season (Antarctica's "summer" -- from November - Feb or March) close to 40,000 people sailed or flew south.
Cherry continues in the same passage: "And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you you are mad and nearly all will say, 'what's the use?' For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research that does not promise him a financial return within a year."
Causes Leslie Roberts Supports
Environmental causes of all stripes