Fear and Loathing in Amundsen-Scott Station
August 24, 2012 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Can't get enough Antarctic culture?

Maybe you can start with the account of Roald Amundsen, the first explorer to reach the Sorth Pole. Then check out the various resources collected by the Antarctic Circle, "an informal international group of scholars and knowledgeable amateurs interested or involved in non-scientific Antarctic studies." They even have a library. Sit back with a cup of freeze-dried coffee and browse The Antarctic Sun, the official newspaper of the U.S. Antarctic Program. Of course, if you want to see the place, then The Big Picture can help, and Werner Herzog's (SLYT) got your back. There's also the underrated Japanese film, Antarctica (SLYT), from 1983, about a group of sled dogs that get trapped on the continent and Kim Stanley Robinson's thriller, Antarctica. And Barnard's Scholar and Feminist has a must-read online special issue, "Gender and Ice." But no post about Antarctic art and culture would ever be complete without a reference to John Carpenter's The Thing (SLYT) and its 2011 remake (SLYT).

Of course, if you're more a North Pole person, then check out The Conquest of the Pole, by the great Georges Méliès.
posted by outlandishmarxist (39 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Don't forget this classic SomethingAwful post about living at Palmer Station! (Previously FPP'd)
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Every since I found out it's a thing that exists, I've made it a life goal to do an Antarctic cruise.
posted by kmz at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I forgot to include this great thread from Everything2 about sex in Antarctica.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have an Antarctic dollar I bought a long time ago, though I have no idea whether it's worth anything, much less even been in Antarctica.
posted by crapmatic at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2012

Never invest in a penguin-backed currency.
posted by griphus at 10:58 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

A friend of mine who spent some time at McMurdo and at pole describes dating on the ice as "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."
posted by rmd1023 at 11:08 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Fun fact from a friend of a friend currently stationed at the Amundsen Scott base: The crew this year discovered a cache of instruments in an overlooked room, including a working thememin.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:09 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

One of my all time favorite books is: The Last Place on Earth
About the Amundsen v Scott race to the South Pole.
It is the single best book on polar history.
posted by Flood at 11:10 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think an Antarctic base is the perfect environment to trick someone into thinking that a working theremin is, in fact, a box full of angry ghosts.
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Heh. You said "pole".
posted by clvrmnky at 11:20 AM on August 24, 2012

I didn't think this thread would be complete without something about Henry Kaiser!
posted by crazy_yeti at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2012

Epidemiological Status:

Threat Potential:

Governing Authority:
Ecototalitarian (CSIRA)

22,600,000, rising. 60% retrofitted against ßehemoth.

Technology current. Local nets clean.

Wind farms responsible for most of the available generating capacity, but equipment failure is common due to environmental factors (e.g. flooding, substrate instability, atmospheric turbulence). Nuclear backups in frequent use. Most food production via industrial photosynthesis; aquaculture and hydroponic/forced-soil agriculture increasing in importance (22% of total production at last count). Small but significant black market in wild gadids and clupeids; expected to diminish as ßehemoth contamination becomes an issue. Meltwater abundant.

Antarctica remains ßehemoth-free thanks to a combination of low temperatures, isolating circumpolar currents, and strictly-enforced travel and cargo restrictions. CSIRA is in the process of relocating its central command structures from Europe to McMurdo; a significant population is expected to relocate here as ßehemoth makes further inroads into the EurAfrican sphere, but housing and support infrastructure is already strained in the wake of recent immigration. Flash floods and avalanches due to ongoing glacial collapse are proving problematic, both as environmental hazards and as impediments to further construction. Carrying capacity is nonetheless expected to triple over the next four years, during which time immigrants will be accepted on a value-per-capita basis.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:37 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

For some reason, the Cool Antarctica page features a picture of polar bears.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is the single best book on polar history.

Cherry Apsley-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World would like a word with you.
posted by yoink at 11:42 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Everything2's iceowl has many writings about Antarctica. I like "Rocket Toilet".
posted by mkb at 11:46 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

"The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

Funny, that was a saying among the women at my engineering alma mater.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:49 AM on August 24, 2012

Antarctica is definitely not the only place that description applies. :)
posted by rmd1023 at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2012

Yay, Cherry Apsley-Garrard! Go read the book right now!
posted by the dief at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isn't it Apsley Cherry-Garrard ?
posted by Melismata at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never invest in a penguin-backed currency.

Go ahead, keep "storing" your wealth in fiat currencies. When the world economy crashes, you'll be starving in the street while I'll be up to my eyeballs in delicious penguins.
posted by The Tensor at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this where I can put my favorite video ever?
posted by functionequalsform at 12:16 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isn't it Apsley Cherry-Garrard?

Yes, but he went by Cherry, hence the confusion.

Also, The Worst Journey in the World a BBC docudrama is basically an hour long book trailer.
posted by zinon at 12:39 PM on August 24, 2012

Music from the Ice
posted by moonmilk at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2012

I should have also mentioned the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program..
posted by outlandishmarxist at 12:59 PM on August 24, 2012

You can also sign up to run a marathon on Antarctica.

Every since I found out it's a thing that exists, I've made it a life goal to do an Antarctic cruise

For anyone tickled by this idea, its $5-6k for a 10-12 day 'cruise' (expedition ship style) plus the cost of getting to Ushuaia, at the very south of South America. I may currently have a special savings account filling up specifically for this trip.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

What are sOme good examples of Antarctic music? ( excluding things like soundtracks eg Vangelis)

Well there's Dronning Mauds Land singing Dronning Mauds Land
posted by Dumsnill at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2012

subject_verb_remainder — I too went and looked around for prices, and yeah, $5-6K seems to be the bare minimum. You can easily spend more (as always) but in this case may actually want to, since the cheaper trips can be fairly short. I'm definitely saving up, though. Got to visit it before it's the Anarctic Archipelago.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2012

There's another great Japanese Antarctic movie called Nankyoku ryôrinin. It might be hard to find without a torrent client, but subtitles are readily available online. Here's the trailer.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:48 PM on August 24, 2012

I went on one of those antarctic cruises a few years back. We didn't make landfall but we sailed along the coast, went into a lake in the middle of an active volcano (!), and got down to the antarctic circle. So all in all, it was pretty damn amazing. And there were penguins, so many penguins.
posted by Perfectibilist at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2012

Reading through Guillaume Dargaud's writings on Antarctica is a fantastic way to kill an afternoon.
posted by schmod at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2012

Excluding cabin upgrades and length of time, I've found the biggest difference on prices for Antarctic cruises is the size of the ship. Since the rule for tourism is only 100 persons can be on the continent at a site at a time, larger boats mean less time on land as you go in groups. A boat that carries 60-80 passengers, though, can put the whole group on the continent at at a time and let them stay there longer.

Awesomely enough, it's the smaller ships that are the cheapest option, but there's much fewer of them, so it requires some hunting. The larger ships usually come equipped with all the cruise-like amenities and charge for that.

Also, everyone should read At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

My cruise reading for the trip included The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket as well. I was on a big ship, but someone else paid for the whole thing.
posted by Perfectibilist at 2:14 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

...Someone's asked about Antarctic music and no one's mentioned Nunatak?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 PM on August 24, 2012

What about this?
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."

Ernest Shackleton's expedition on the HMS Endurance, with dozens of dogs and a couple dozen men is an amazing story of a failed expedition through which the entire crew lived, despite the odds.

Interested people should read Shackleton's own account of the voyage from 1914 to 1917, with the beautiful photos that survived the trip, and I also recommend the "The Voyage of the James Caird," by Captain Frank Worsley, who commanded both Endurance as well as the James Caird, an open boat that was modified by the crew to host the 6 men who made an extraordinary 800-mile crossing of open ocean from Elephant Island, followed by a 2-day crossing of South Georgia Island to the whaling station which ultimately effected the rescue of the remaining sailors.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:09 PM on August 24, 2012

Maybe I'll head off to Walmart and try to pay for some Mentos with my Antarctican Dollar. If they call the cops on me I want a FPP about my Mentos/penguin dollar plight.
posted by crapmatic at 4:23 PM on August 24, 2012

Ernest Shackleton's expedition on the HMS Endurance, with dozens of dogs and a couple dozen men is an amazing story of a failed expedition through which the entire crew lived, despite the odds.

I wrote a song about this (well, wrote new lyrics to an existing tune) that has been rather well received at my local sea-chantey sing. I should record it and post it to Music.
posted by fermion at 6:27 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

So the Crary Lab at McMurdo Station is named after my Uncle, Albert Crary. Growing up I heard the following story about Uncle Al:

One time he and two other scientists were measuring the ice thickness at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf when the ice calved off into the ocean plungin Uncle Al and one of the other scientists into the water. They quickly climbed up onto a piece of ice and started jumping up and down to keep themselves warm while the other scientist ran back to McMurdo to get help.

Arriving at McMurdo he discovered that the base helicopter was in pieces for maintenance so he grabbed a rowboat and rowed out to where they were. Uncle Al and the other guy climbed into the rowboat and they tried to row back to shore, only to discover that the current was taking them out to sea. Uncle Al later said that that was the worst part because they were cold and wet but couldn't move around much for fear of tipping the rowboat.

Meanwhile, back at McMurdo they reassembled the helicopter and flew out and rescued the three of them, lifting them out of the rowboat one-by-one. When they got back to base, Uncle Al went to bed with a bottle of scotch. While he was convalescing with the bottle, the base chaplain came in to talk to him and the following conversation took place:

Chaplain: Albert, they say that when a man thinks he's dying, his life passes before his eyes.
Uncle Al: Well Chaplain, I don't know about that.
Chaplain: What were you thinking when you were on that ice flow being swept out to sea?
Uncle Al: Oh, Chaplain, I don't think you'd be interested.
Chaplain: (Thinking he can get a good sermon) It's OK Albert, I'm a man of the cloth, you can tell me.
Uncle Al: I really don't think you want to know.
Chaplain: No, go ahead Albert, I can take it.
Uncle Al: Well, OK Chaplain. So as I was drifting out to sea, jumping up and down, I was thinking: "O shitty, O damn. O Shitty, O Damn! I've done it this time!"

The chaplain turned on his heel, and walked out without saying another word. Uncle Al got up the next day and went back to work his usual 20 hour day.
posted by BillW at 8:13 PM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

The book version of Big Dead Place was excellent, I thought.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:36 AM on August 25, 2012

I remember there was an article in Sassy magazine about one of the writers' trips to Antarctica. I wish I could find it online!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2012

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