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USA

1. Because it's there

and because I can

When asked, “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” George Mallory replied with “the most famous three words in mountaineering,” saying: “Because it’s there.”

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When asked, “Why do you want to go to Antarctica?” I fail to improve on that answer. There is no other reason to make the arduous trek south, spending a lot of money, to reach what is clearly the driest, coldest and windiest place on earth. Penguins can be seen elsewhere, many as close as the zoo in Swope Park.

My northerly visit to the Arctic in June of this year was to see polar bears in the wild. There are no polar bears to see in Antarctica. By any measure, that trip was a resounding success; I could not have been more pleased at the experience. But this trip--and this place--will be different.
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In Antarctica, there are no reptiles nor amphibians and, other than seals, precious few mammals but, somehow, millions of tiny hibernating bugs somehow manage to survive. There are, according to the “State of Antarctic Penguin” report estimate, 12 million penguins in migratory residence there (out of 40 million across the planet—nearly every one of them in the southern hemisphere). I visited these guys many years ago in South Africa...769e3790-1842-11ea-825e-b7c3ec1136b1.JPG

Unlike most every other place on this planet, there is very little of anything alive on the continent of Antarctica. Plants don’t grow on ice so the few mosses, grasses and a mere two flowering plants must find those few places where the ice has failed to lay claim—most of that on the peninsula which you can see on the map; its the little finger sticking up from the top left corner of the landmass. large_43040a90-17b1-11ea-aaa8-5b3f691bd423.gif As much as 98% of continental Antarctica is covered by thick ice—some up to almost 3 miles thick. And, as mentioned, it is cold. Earth’s coldest temperature---minus 128.9 degrees Fahrenheit—was recorded here at Vostok Station.

Last year 45,000 people made this arduous trek. This season—2019/2020—an estimated 80,000 people will visit Antarctica, the fifth-largest but least populated continent. (Europe and Australia/Oceania are smaller) There are 0.00008 people per square kilometer (vs 55 per square kilometer in Europe). Those who live here--between 1,000 to 5,000 people--toil at research stations. Many of them leave during winter.

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I arrive during their summer. Why? “Because it’s there” is the best reason I can conjure with “Because I can” coming in second.

The mantra here is: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories.” With that I shall comply.

PS: Mallory—the Everest climber mentioned above—died on that mountain; his frozen remains undiscovered for 75 years. I shall endeavor to fare better.

This initial blog post goes out to those who have followed RussRaff journeys in the past. Unsubscribe if you’re not interested; no offense will be taken. Give the web address of www.russellantarctic.travellerspoint.com to anyone who might be interested, telling them that there is a SUBSCRIBE button if they take the trouble to look for it.

B4 is, with a business to run--at the most critical time imaginable--amazingly, staying home. I leave Kansas City on December 11, a few days from now. I anticipate making one entry per day but I also expect that, with very limited internet access aboard ship at the bottom of the planet, entries will be posted intermittently and with associated delay.

Posted by paulej4 12:31 Archived in USA Comments (10)

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