Book, objects convey fascinating history of Antarctica

On Jan. 7, 1978, Silvia Morella de Palma gave birth to her son Emilio. The event is noteworthy because it took place at Argentina’s Esperanza station in Antarctica. It was a gesture to remind the world that Argentina still considers the area hers. In response, Chile sent three pregnant women to bases they ran.

This is just one of the fascinating things you will learn about our largest continent in these pages. The authors had planned a physical exhibition on Antarctica, but COVID changed that to this book. Many of the 100 items highlighted are scientific instruments or tales of early explorers like Ernest Shackleton. It’s the others that intrigued me most.

“Aurora Australis” (No. 18) is a bound book/magazine that was created on printing presses aboard Shackleton’s Nimrod. An early crew member brought his banjo (No. 32) to entertain fellow explorers during the long winters. In 1946, women first travelled to the frigid land as part of a geographical expedition with their husbands. Jennie Darlington may be the first woman to become pregnant there, “which she revealed to the other expedition members by eating an entire jar of pickles in one sitting.” (No. 41)

People are also reading…

Tourism began in 1969 with Lars-Eric Lindblad’s Explorer (No. 58). Three decades later, she became the first passenger vessel to run into an iceberg and sink in Antarctica. No lives were lost. Pee Flags (No. 87) marked international territory as well as sites to collect human pee to concentrate pollution.

Much is written about the dogs, the sleds and skis and the clothing designed for warmth. Dogs were not pets and when they became a burden, they became food. At least three pets did make the long voyages, including a canary, a fox terrier and the cat Mrs. Chippy who was on the Endurance. Suffice it to say she did not come to a good end.

The most amazing item, of course, is No. 97, the discovery 107 years later of the wreck of Shackleton’s Endurance. In deep cold water, it is in pristine condition. And the oddest is No. 46: a bust of Lenin at one of the poles (I learned there are several types). It was erected, facing Moscow, during the cold war, giving that term an entirely new meaning.

Great photos and fascinating text make this a wonderful book for those who’ve been there and for those who still have Antarctica on their bucket list.

Penny A Parrish is a freelance writer in Stafford County.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *