Chain-saw massacres, zombies, aliens, or serial killers are the kind of things that probably top most people’s list of scary things. Not me. The top of my list is the cold. In severe cold, you can just stand still and it will kill you. We had a single day (Sunday) with temps in the teens here in Virginia and you would have thought Freddy Krueger was outside my door. Bitter cold scares me.
Therefore, my idea of a thrillingly horrible horror story is something like Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance” about Shackleton’s disastrous voyage to Antarctica, or better yet, Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s book, “The Worst Journey in the World” about Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica .
In the “Winter Journey” chapter of the book, Cherry-Garrard describes going on foot, with two companions, from their base camp (hut), to a location sixty miles away to collect penguin eggs. They dragged about 750 pounds of supplies on two sledges in temperatures of between -40° and -70° often in high winds and in near total darkness. It took them 19 days; they did not expect to survive. (The Wikipedia article says the temps were ‘only’ -40° but the book describes -70° temps not including wind-chill.)
Later in the book, both of Cherry-Garrard’s companions from the Winter Journey die with Scott on their return from the South Pole. (Cherry-Garrard was left behind at the base camp.)
Recently, I bought a set of all of the back issues of LensWork Extended magazine, which I am now looking at — slowly. (I don’t care for the type of photographs generally found in LensWork; they remind me of surgical steel, hard, shiny, sterilized…).
One of the portfolios featured is Joan Myers’ set on Antarctica. I approached it with great reluctance because, along with Iceland, Antarctica has become one of the trendy destinations for art photographers. Everybody has Antarctica pictures.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Myers’ stuff. She shows things, not just ice and penguins and more ice and more penguins… There are good pictures (aesthetically, technically, and compositionally) of the research stations, of mountains and scientific instruments. And of historical locations, including the hut in which Cherry-Garrard’s expedition spent the winter! Wow! She also shows some of the Shackleton locations.
Right now, in Virginia on January 24, 2008 at 7:30 AM it is about 26°. Too cold for me but at least I’m not in McMurdo Bay (or even in Vermont). For all you northerners who think I’m a sissy, try visiting Virginia in August — when temps are 100° and humidity makes the air thick as wet cotton. Just right for me.