Real Cool World
- Published 27th April, 2022
- ISBN: 978-1-922212-74-0
- Extent: 264pp
- Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook
Antarctica is both a physical locality and an imaginary possibility – as a pivot around which the world turns, it has proven historically to be a space where human ideas of exploration, investigation and fantasy have played out.
Yet it is the only continent on Earth that is truly free of government – a place where an international treaty from sixty years ago holds firm. National governments stake claims in the understanding that they will never be enforced, either conceptually or militarily.
But this vast, dry continent is a litmus test for change – a canary in the coal mine of climate crisis. It is a deceptively rich eco-system that negotiates extremes every day, yet the signals it is sending are increasingly ones of distress: ice melt, glacial erosion and a profound change in the character and distribution of its sparse and precious flora.
From climate science, glaciology and marine biology to geopolitics, international law and more, this is a collection that will foreground subjects and stories from the planet’s deepest south.
Listen to Editor Ashley Hay read her introduction ‘Between different worlds’.
Listen to Coen Hird read his essay ‘Blinding whiteness’.
Listen to Editor Ashley Hay being interviewed on Books, Books, Books podcast.
In this Edition
Where borders break down
WHEN EXPLAINING MY Antarctic research to new acquaintances, at a dinner party or a barbeque, I can usually predict the direction of the conversation. First comes surprise and – depending on the crowd – perhaps delight that someone working in the humanities conducts research on the...
WHEN ROBERT FALCON Scott reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, he immediately knew he had been beaten. The first sign was a black flag whipping in the wind; the second was the green tent of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen standing dark against...
Among ancient moss forests
IT WAS FEBRUARY 2022 when I started writing this essay, and I was returning from three weeks in Antarctica. As we flew back to Hobart I caught glimpses through the clouds of massive, glistening white, tabular icebergs suspended in semi-transparent sea ice in the...
Game theory on ice
It’s no surprise…that many analysts think the Antarctic Treaty can serve as a template to solve modern-day territorial disputes. But how realistic is that?
Postcards from the frontline
The Antarctic Treaty was negotiated between May 1958 and June 1959, an impressively short period of time given formidable geopolitical issues that needed to be addressed: the status of sovereign claims and Cold War competition.
Stories of animal migration to Antarctica, such as yalingbila, are reminders of global Indigenous connections to the frozen continent. As our kin traverse Antarctic waters, they too connect with the myriad creatures carving a living out of the ice.
The face of the Earth at the end of the world
Antarctica has withstood many acquisitive claims. If the era of the Antarctic Treaty has ostensibly elevated the idea of co-operation as humanity’s guiding ideal in the south, possessive urges tenaciously remain.
Red heart, red ship
When I was twelve years old, I was head over heels in love with a little red ship, the Danish polar vessel Nella Dan. She worked for the Australian Antarctic Division for twenty-six years, and in the 1980s Hobart was her home away from home.
White day dreaming
We linger together well past bedtime, talking of our children. The sun plays its part by refusing to set, doing an orbit around the horizon and waltzing shadows across the lounge. Below us are about eighty metres of ice floating on the waters of the Ross Sea. Further towards the mainland and buried some sixteen metres down in the ice are Scott, Bowers and Wilson, frozen into their sleeping bags and wrapped in their tent.
Observing life on the edge
I KNOW THESE things. A recognisable and deep clunk as I walk along the cobble beach, its round rocks moving like bowling balls, crashing underfoot. A learned response of ankle flexion to maintain balance. An automatic eye that seeks out the flatter, more stable...
Leading down south
We were using the Italian station as a jumping-off point to inspect some of the nearby stations – the German Gondwana Station and, for the first time, the Korean Jang Bogo Station, as well as China’s temporary station on the site of the proposed new Chinese station planned for Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay. This is a truly remarkable part of Antarctica…
Coming soon to a beach near you
IN THE ROOM with pictures of Antarctica on the walls the scientists sit around the table and talk about how fast the Antarctic ice sheets are going to melt as our planet warms. They talk about thinning ice, retreating grounding lines, hydrofracturing and basal...
THERE’S NO EXPERIENCE on Earth like diving under the ice in Antarctica. On life support and in an uninhabited and extreme environment, it’s as close as you can get to a spacewalk while remaining on this planet. My diving work in the Antarctic’s Ross...
Audacious visions for the Antarctic
IT WAS EARLY 1984. It started with a phone call: can you do an environmental impact assessment of the effect of mining in Antarctica for us? asked a newly acquired friend from the local Friends of the Earth group. I had just completed some...
Inside, and outside
On the ship it’s a mix of hurry up and wait – cabins cleaned, bags packed and stacked in the halls, people standing in cabin doorways chatting – the uncertainty of farewells. Especially the twenty-odd Mawson-bound expeditioners – not knowing who to farewell and when.
Silence is the song
DURING THE LONG winter of 2020, and due to fortunate happenstance, I found myself locked down in a somewhat ramshackle cottage in the forest in the Otways off the Shipwreck Coast of south-west Victoria: leaky roof, windows that wouldn’t shut, red-gum wood fires, beanies,...
Over the entire 800,000-year record, atmospheric carbon dioxide has never peaked over 300 ppm. For all of human history, it sat around 275 ppm until about 200 years ago, when we began to dig up and burn coal to fuel the Industrial Age. In 1950, it punched through the 300-ppm historic ceiling. In mid-May, as the forests of the Northern Hemisphere dropped their leaves, the planet exhaled atmospheric carbon dioxide at a new daily record of 421 ppm.
Warnings in the water
The environmental significance of krill extends beyond their role as food. They also play a vital part in the processes that regulate the Earth’s climate.
A subantarctic sentinel
It didn’t take long for this knowledge to spread wider – and for Macquarie Island to become an open-air slaughterhouse. By December 1810, another three Sydney-based sealing gangs were operating there and, within the first eighteen months of operation, roughly 120,000 fur seals had been killed for their fine pelts.
Enter the internationalist
What we can do is to look back on the time of Whitlam for encouragement – especially young lawyers and young citizens. Seize the moment: carpe diem. He sure seized the moment. That’s why learning from him in my own life – I think all of us can learn to be more courageous. Where there is injustice, we should seek to right the wrongs. That is what Whitlam demonstrated. That we could do a lot as a democratic nation.
Last of the rational actors at the end of the unnatural world
Was it Douglas Mawson who compared Antarctica to Mars?… ‘Outside, one might be a lone soul standing on Mars’, or something very much like that. ‘All is desolation and hard.’
The holiday brochures talk about ‘the sound of silence’ in Antarctica. That it is an experience, elliptical and expansive. This has become a long-running joke at the base. Everyone knows that life here relies on making noise.
Hope sends a message
A RAGGED-EDGED piece of structural plywood on the edge of town carries a message, scrawled in red spray-paint: ‘We were the first, we were always the first.’ People, wrapped tight against the bitter cold, move silently through autumnal streets in the sallow, shallow weak...
the hardest part about going to antarctica is coming back after two years to a six-year-old daughter who screams when you open the door to your home because she thinks you are a monster. you made a pact with the ship doctor that you’d throw away your razor...
A Lullaby Made From Ice
The closest I’ve ever come to an iceberg is at the bottom of a dime bag. Me, a climate of catastrophe, aching for the melt. Apply barrel butt to crush chemical into sliver and shard. Soak, watch landscape become liquid. There were nights when...
A badly researched history of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition, headed by Douglas Mawson, explored the Antarctic coast between 1911 and 1914. After losing a sled team and their supplies down a crevasse mid-expedition, the two remaining explorers – Mawson and Xavier Mertz – journeyed back, staying alive by eating their sled dogs....
Expedition to Blood Falls, Victoria Land
I used to catch fish in jam jars and hide in hedges. I slept in trees like a lemur and dreamt of rockets landing on another world. I made a cell from clay and glue and learnt of other places through the slides my father showed me – of people in Kowloon and...
Sean Williams is a multi-award-winning author of over fifty novels and 120 short stories for readers of all ages....
Jo Chandler is a Walkley-Award winning freelance journalist and winner of the inaugural 2012 UNSW Bragg Prize for Science...
James Bradley is a novelist and critic. His books include the novels Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and Clade,...