Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Pole Experience

The entire continent of antarctica has a very interesting relationship with other countries. I guess what I should really say is that other countries have a very interesting relationship within Antarctica. Antarctica is the Earth's only continent without a native human group. In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty System was signed by some 12 countries that had staked a claim so far on the continent. So far the treaty has the signatures of about 50 countries. The treaty effectively promotes scientific investigation on the continent, and prevents military action. The point of the treaty is to prevent disputes over this continent. This treaty not only opens the country directly to science, but also indirectly to explorers and adventurers.
One of the aspects of this book that I thought was interesting was the way that Ann and Liv were treated by the scientists both at the pole and at the American research base where they end their journey. About the pole, Liv says,

"Because it is a research station, everyone at the Pole is friendly, but they are not allowed to give you 'official' help."
"These rules came about because the station did not wish to be accused to helping too much or unequally. And, mainly, it did not want to become a Motel 6 for explorers." (pg 159)

That being said, everyone at the station is very friendly and wants to talk with the explorers and help them in any way they can. This meeting with very friendly, helpful people in a place of relative comfort is a stark contrast to the entire Annapurna climb. No where on the way up Annapurna can a climber meet with a group of scientist living comfortable in an extreme environment. It must have been an interesting mental goal to know that halfway across the continent they would leave their isolation and become completely surrounded by people for at least a day or two.

What interested me most about this expedition to Antarctica is the relationship between science and exploration in this region. This adventure was so extreme, but it is unreal to think that people can live and conduct science in the same place that gave Ann and Liv such an adventure. I think the reason why this is so striking is because of the contrast of the nature of the alpine adventure versus the Antarctic trekking adventure. Both are so extreme, but in such different ways.

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