South Pole Diaries 2000/01



Friday 15th December 2000

From Paolo Calisse.....

Even if just a few of you have reached this point, I would like to continue telling you about the astonishment I felt when I "discovered" that the white, unshaped thing we generically call ice, and that Inuits instead address in several ways, can really, easily develop the most extraordinary look. If you are ever lucky enough to travel to this place sometime, you will discover the difference between the so called sombrero Iceberg and the tabular one, the pack that formed during the last winter, than the pack broken into extraordinarily regular pieces by the long wave coming from storms thousand miles away, to that amazing cyan blocks of geological ice that you can met sometime when navigating.

It is possible to see sometimes, as it has been used in a number of calendars and books, a picture of a spooky, cyan and almost transparent huge iceberg, taken by a lucky photographer from a ship sailing close to it. On some cavities of this incredible floating thing, stands an equally astonished group of penguins. It is considered the best picture ever taken in Antarctica, and it is not difficult to understand why. I would be tempted to say it is the best wildlife picture ever taken.

Moreover, there are the quite common "gothic cathedral", ogival caves created by the waves on the cliffs of the tabular icebergs, the yellow ice due to the flowering of algae in the short Antarctic spring (the most prominent source of basic food for the Antarctic sea fauna), and the geological deep ice on the Antarctic Plateau, so transparent, that it is used to detect, at the South Pole, the most exotic particles of the universe (AMANDA experiment).

A while ago a pilot - actually my nice room mate at UNSW, Andre Phillips - was telling me that when executing a loop during an acrobatic manoeuvre, you get the feeling it has been successful when you feel a little "bump", or vibration, as you perfectly centred the trail left by yourself when closing the circle. This is probably not very interesting for people not sick about aircraft's, but it is an example of something noone could foresee from outside. So, out of the instrumentation, out of our ability, a sign is left on the transparent air is able to produce satisfaction for the man driving that flying thing. Again, as soon as we get closer to any human activity, we discover it's made of small facts, of a long series of irrelevant but fundamental experiences, that quickly substantiate the abstract idea we automatically shape of unlikely human activities.

p.s. I apologize for any incorrect information in the text above. I can't easily access books or the web to check them.