Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Celebrating Ice in New Zealand

When I was in New Zealand I picked up a copy of New Zealand Geographic, like our National Geographic only, you know, New Zealand centered *duh* and I've been reading it the past few days.  One of the ads caught my attention.  It was for an event called the New Zealand Icefest, and I thought, "yep, that sounds about right.  A country of 4 million people, in the middle of winter, near the pole, of course they need an icefest."  I imagined that there would be a lot of carving of ice, and things like that.

But nope.  I went to the website and saw that it's really a celebration of Antarctica, and New Zealand's role in Antarctic research.  I had no idea that New Zealand, and Christchurch specifically, played such a role in Antarctic exploration and research.

Shackleton, Scott, and Sir Edmund Hillary all launched explorations of Antarctica from Christchurch.  I had always assumed that it was from South America, as that seems to be the closest tip, and it's true that Shackleton's most famous journey was started from South America.  But many journeys also started from Christchurch.  New Zealand was among the original 12 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in Washington DC in  1959 and was the treaty that designated Antarctica as a research continent devoted to peace and learning (it sounds noble, but really I'm betting it's practical.  How can you make war in such a cold climate??).  Christchurch is also apparently home to the International Antarctic Centre (which appears to be a mixture between theme park and aquarium, dedicated to all things penguin and Antarctic), and the US Antarctic program is based there (when they're not, you know, in Antarctica.  They come up for the balmy climate.  Current Christchurch weather is 48 degrees Fahrenheit with 90% humidity and high winds.  Sounds about right).

Moonrise over Antarctica on Midwinter Day. Photo from
US Antarctica Project
I checked out this article from the US Antarctic program - they have an online newsletter called that Antarctic Sun; clever - and as we just celebrated the summer solstice, they celebrated Midwinter Day, which is a hallowed event for them.  Apparently the sun set on March 23.  It won't rise again until September 21.

But back to the Icefest.  There will be keynote speakers, and a chance to video conference with actual people living in Antarctica.  So you can ask them about the weather, about the daylight, or lack of daylight, about Seasonal Affective Disorder, whatever.  You can also learn about penguins.  Everyone in the Antarctic education field seems to be obsessed with penguins.  They are pretty cute.  But still.  Maybe it's because there's no other cute animals on Antarctica.

The Guardian recently published an article about a cook in one of the research stations, who averages making about $16/hour, but all of her expenses are paid, so she gets to pretty much bank that.  She has a blog called, cleverly, Cooking on Ice.   If the idea of escaping from the world (no planes fly in between February and October) you can look for jobs on the Antarctic Connection website, or the USAP itself.   Who knew there was so much action in Antarctica?

No comments: