Let me begin by laying the foundation of the problem out for you in a poem.
The essence of Antarctica
is as elusive as the
flutter of wings.
Defying scale, stasis, especially prose.
To imagine, even for a moment,
capturing the emerald-green
of vast frozen seas,
the sublimity of sculptured
of bounteous life.
This would be nothing,
if not arrogance
in its quintessential form.
James McClintock, February 22, 2010, Anvers Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Ever since I first laid eyes on Antarctica some 27 years ago, I have tried to come to terms with the fact that it is simply not possible to capture the essence of Antarctica so as to share it with those that have yet to visit this remarkable, otherworldly, continent.
At first blush, one might imagine this task being as simple as arming oneself with a high-priced camera, equipped with all means of wide angle, short angle, and telephoto lens, along with various adaptors, filters, tripods, you name it. But the bottom line is that when you point your camera at a landscape that rewrites one’s sensibilities in its utter grandeur and immensity of scale, you are reminded of a naturalist digging up a single teaspoon of soil and trying to describe the community of life in your backyard.
There have also been those that have attempted using narrative prose to capture the gestalt of Antarctica, myself included. However, this approach also falls short. While the English language does not want for adjectives, they do little to address the Antarctic problem. For as adroitly as one describes the curvature of glacial ice, or the changing textures of an Antarctic sky, one is ultimately painted into the corner of inadequacy. It is simply not possible to exploit narrative to tame the collective nature of the beast.
No, I have decided that, quite frankly, there is no straightforward solution to conveying the essence of Antarctica. As I have told others, the closest one might come is through its sheer poetry. And so, the Antarctic problem lives on. Ultimately, coming to Antarctica is the essence of capturing its essence.