Friday, February 29, 2008

Concerning life

There isn't any here, save a paltry 60 humans. Period. I watched a couple things last night that drove that point in quite effectively, albeit in rather indirect ways.

The first was the movie "Cry of the Penguins" from the late 1960s. It starred John Hurt (of chest-bursting Alien fame) as a dissipated, callow, rich youth that is sent to Cape Royds in Antarctica to study Adelie penguins. He has to leave behind most of the trappings of his frivolous lifestyle and learns how to care for something other than what directly benefits him, namely: the penguins and the girl he left back in London. Said girl was played by the smashingly cute Hayley Mills, of whom I recognized the name but had no idea she was such a bombshell. Anyhow, pretty girls aside, the coast looks like it's teeming with life when contrasted with my present environs on the Antarctic Plateau.

The second thing I watched was one episode from the "Shark Week" DVD set from some past season. It centered on the ancient, fossil sharks that are present in an extremely wide variety of shapes and sizes. The show kept going to different places where people were finding shark fossils (mostly teeth, since the skeleton is cartilaginous), and they all looked lush and totally alien compared to the South Pole. In particular I enjoyed the scenery of a place called Bear Gulch (or something like that), which reminded me a lot of my beloved Flint Hills with its exposed limestone, rolling hills, green grass, and creeks running through the draws. The similarity goes further, because the Flint Hills-and much of Kansas for that matter-were under a sea at one time, and even in our pastures we can find plenty of fossils of sea life that was abundant at some time long ago. Here at Pole we don't have soil. We have no fossil record beyond the gases trapped in the ice that is nearly 2 miles thick beneath our feet. Now that winter has set in it's probably pretty much cleared any birds that might have strayed inland out for warmer climes in the north.

This leads me back to the starting point of this-perhaps annoyingly contemplative-post in that in all this vast, white space that 60 specimens of homo sapiens are probably the only living things to be found until you hit the coast, all those 100s of miles away. I find it enervating, and actually quite comforting, to have managed to get myself so utterly and thoroughly out of the mainstream of life, with living conditions that are so vastly different and sundered from the norm.

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