Terra Antarctica, terror incognita
What knowledge does land possess? Should we fear what unknown lands might discover of us? Of all the places I’ll never go, never know, Antarctica stands out. Coldest, highest, driest, windiest, least inhabited, most alien. One vast desert boasting half of Earth’s fresh water. A whole continent 98% under ice up to 3km thick. Untouchable? Far from unreachable by the global, heating and polluting human footprint.
Paradoxically, even its unknowability is now contaminated, eroded, domesticated by a human presence that travels there even when we don’t. Its alien knowledge of us grows: parts per million, year by year.
For the BBC World Service’s The Why Factor, writer Kim Stanley Robinson: “Terra incognita used to be vast. It used to be a lot of the map … The last places that were truly unknown became the baskets where we threw all of our strange ideas of what could have been out there.” Here be dragons — but not for long.
“The whole imaginary that needed another place in order to believe it really existed — that went away, until Antarctica was the only place left that we didn’t know enough about … Well, now we know … So even Antarctica’s gone.” Here be the Anthropocene.