November 1 —
Yikes! I’m in a Hercules flying to the South Pole. Yes, that South Pole. We gathered at Building 140 for transport, got on Ivan the Terrabus with our carry-on, and went to a runway made of ice to board a Hercules. We went wheels-up at 20:50 or so, and now …
We are over the Trans-Antarctic mountain range, flying in a little bubble of air made of metal, piloted by some folks who have the nicest commute in the world. They fly this bubble between McMurdo and the South Pole, or WAIS, or Carey, or some other place … in Antarctica at the south end of the much larger bubble of air — the one made of dirt and gravity — where we all live. I will soon be working at a recently-completed bubble of air and heat made out of steel at the south-most point of the world. And that astounds me.
Many of the marks we make on maps are arbitrary — geographic borders, the Prime Meridian, the Date Line. The place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific ocean meet is just some line we draw in the vast salt water and call one side one thing and the other side another thing. You don’t see it if you sail across it. The whales don’t notice it when they migrate.
No, they don’t notice the equator either, or the poles. But they are less arbitrary — more real. I’m not sure why I think so; they are only real to a surveyor’s transit. I won’t see anything that would tell me I was at the South Pole, other than a survey marker. But I am not a whale. I’m a member of the Animals Who Use Sextants, so to me. It’s real.
The South Pole. Yikes.