25 November 2005

Antarctica: The Great White Hope

Antarctica should be counting its lucky stars. Being inhospitable, the only people who ever bother going there are scientists and sily people who want to get to the middle so they can build a house where every wall points North. Antarctica is protected by international treaty; it cannot be claimed by any country and mining its wealth is prohibited. All this means it has escaped the ravages of humanity. No, wait, that's wrong. I forgot. Antarctica counts its lucky stars throught the hole in the ozone layer which we made. They must look especially twinkly.

It used to inhospitable for different reasons. The place is supposedly packed to the rafters with oil and minerals. So, at some point, it must have occupied more northerly climes, or else more northerly climes came to visit. Either way, it must have been warm enough for the pre-requisites of oil and coal to grow. The occassional tree stump is visible in places were the twinkly stars melt the snow.

There are differing theories about which is the reason. Obviously, continental drift means continents swim round the planet, not looking where they're going, collide, hence mountains. The other, more scary theory is that the planet underwent a rather nasty event called "pole-shift" where distribution of land masses and the attendant centrifugal forces caused the crust of the Earth to rotate over the molten core, thereby reordering the planet in one. This means that there would be an awful lot of sprained wrists and ankles and an unfortunate distribution of warm clothing, but it is possible.

Whichever mechanism is responsbile, Antarctica has had a more jungly past. Who knows what sorts of animals lived there? Today, it is home to many different species of Penguins and zero Polar Bears. Those cards and jokes about Polar bears eating penguins are false. The only way it will happen is if the scientist introduce something that causes penguin numbers to explode and they have to introduce Polar Bears to keep the numbers down. More likely, it'll be for entertainment purposes. I can't imagine there's much to do in the weeks of perpetual darkness. It's either watch polar bears chase penguins or have sex, and the researchers who go to Antarctica can only be there because they not attractive enough to work somewhere warm. Polar Bears it is!

And so to my target audience; the unattractive, unpopular, unsociable scientists of the world! It is my stated intention to get someone from Antarctica to read this blog. The two methods open to me are praise and criticism. Sadly, derision comes more naturally to my fingers.

I'm sure I am incorrect about the nature of those who choose to persue their avenues of scientific discovery in Antarctica. Maybe its like the French Foreign Legion. Scientists who have falsified research, not been published in a decent journal, failed their PhD or spent their whole research budget brewing their own hooch can escape and start their careers anew, as Scientists of Fortune! That sounds much better than "My field is snowology" or "I'm hoping to develop synthetic ozone".

I just checked, and Antarctica does have it's own domain. For a horrible minute there, I thought all this open hostility was going to waste!

In the defence of Antarctic research and researchers, there is a very cool base at the Pole called Amundsen-Scott which is a half-submerged geodesic dome. The perfect location for the underground lair of the Scientists of Fortune! Having it's own website, pictures and GPS coords somewhat reduces it's capability as a secret lair. Maybe its a smokescreen. Maybe the actual lair of the Scientists of Fortune is disguised as a flock1 of huddling penguins.

So come on, upside-down research types. Pull off those mittens, wipe the frost of your keyboard and riposte. The hopes of a stupid blogger rest on you.

PS If there are really any attractive scientists in the Antarctic, send photos. We will judge.

1 Does "flock" apply to flightless birds?

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