Published November 11th, 2011
“When I was eight or nine years old, I read about Scott and Amundsen and the “Race for the South Pole,” and from then on, I was hooked on Antarctic history and things Antarctic in general. Antarctica became a passion for me, even as I spent my life in the worlds of economics, finance, and business. Decades passed before I was able to visit Antarctica. When I at last did, in 1995, my trip took me to the Antarctic Peninsula Region, thousands of miles from where Scott and Amundsen had run their race. But over the years since I was a small girl, I had read far more Antarctic history, and I knew that I was going to a place rich in history and stories of fascinating events and people. What I hadn’t anticipated was how spectacularly beautiful it would be, how addictive I would find the ice, the landscape, and the wildlife, how emotionally I would react when I first saw Antarctic land. I have been back to Antarctica many times since 1995, both to the Peninsula Region and elsewhere, and every time I experience the same sense of awe and wonder at simply being there.
I have traveled more in the last 16 years to Antarctica than to anywhere else, so in a sense, “Antarctica” is my favorite place. But that’s a very large place, and there are certain locales that speak to me more than others. Since my intellectual focus is on history, the places important to the human story of Antarctica tend to be the ones that stay with me the most. But the landscape has also captured me, so my absolutely favorite places are those with both fascinating stories and wonderful surroundings. The coast of Victoria Land, Ross Island, South Georgia, the South Orkneys, Port Lockroy. . . . All are favorite places, ones that I want to return to over and over. But it is Deception Island—an amazing small doughnut-shaped island in the South Shetlands that is an active volcano—that most quickly comes to mind as a “favorite place.” Here there is a marvelous marriage of magnificent scenery, geology, and a deep history that stretches from the beginnings of Antarctic exploration up through today. Ruins of the abandoned whaling station and a British base, victims of the 1967–70 eruptions, are among the first things one sees after sailing through the narrow cleft in the island walls into the drowned crater that fills the island center. I feel ghosts around me as I walk about there—sealers from the 1820s; the first dedicated scientific expedition to Antarctica; whalers; the earliest Antarctic aviators; Argentine, British, and Chilean scientific bases. . . . On a sunny day, the hillsides, where they are not covered by glaciers, display a wonderful color palette of black and red lava. Steam rises from black sand beaches where one may also see the occasional penguin or fur seal. On the outside wall of the island, facing the sea, there is a huge chinstrap penguin rookery. This is a very special island, with a unique human and geological story, and it is indeed one of my favorite places in the world. “