South of the Border

Text and photography by Liz Schaffer

Eluvium – Repose In Blue
Copia (2007)

In some ice-covered, penguin populated corners of the world, time makes no sense, the elements are humbling, and frolicking whales prove to be rather majestic. Indeed, at the end of the globe, across the dreaded Drake Passage, the world’s most tempestuous body of water, lies Antarctica—the closest any wandered will come to finding heaven on earth (albeit a heaven that defies the laws of physics and has a penchant for all things cold). Ancient, powerful and more stunning than you would dare to imagine, it is sure to leave you with an unshakable sense of wanderlust.

This far south, icebergs are astounding. While all their shapes, textures and nuances completely captivate, some spots make better berg vantage points than others. The otherworldly Pleneau Island is an iceberg graveyard, part of the Antarctic Peninsula where bergs wash up and have nowhere else to travel. They are instead battered by the elements, assuming alien shapes and improbable turquoise hues. Likewise, the rolling icebergs of Mikkelsen Harbour are surrounded by towering ice cliffs, which frequently grumble and collapse into the sea.

south of the border antarctica

No iceberg is the same, or completely stationary. And you wouldn’t want them to be.

In this dramatic corner of the world, signs of human life are rare—while the National Geographic Explorer makes sporadic appearances, all other human inhabitants (tourists aside) can be found within the brightly hued scientific research stations, dotted around calmer stretches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

south of the border antarctica

A station of particular note is the seemingly tranquil Brown Station, a red Argentinian structure with tales to tell. The building is now unmanned thanks to a lack of funding, and the fact that its previous occupant opted to burn part of it down rather than pass another winter alone on the ice. While the view is utterly humbling, his feelings of isolation are totally understandable.

No iceberg is the same, or completely stationary. And you wouldn’t want them to be.

Antarctica was both a nirvana and a hell for those early explorers with names like Scott and Shackleton forever etched into the continent’s past. Yet they have given us more than tales of heroism and despair.

In their pioneering wake they’ve left atmospheric corners named after royals, loves, myth and legend. Places like Neptune’s Bellows, Deception Island, Paradise Bay and Elephant Point will leave you feeling somewhat insignificant and acutely aware that these ethereal names are utterly apt.

In Antarctica some sights are pure magic. When the sky is blue, the water is calm and icebergs glow yellow in the sun, you realise you are as close to bliss as it is possible to be.

Read more in N˚5: Arrival.