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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mysterious Antarctica

I made an amazing trip to South Georgia Island and Antarctica with my family in January. In this and in subsequent posts I will share highlights along with some of the needlework the trip has inspired.

We boarded our ship, the Akademik Ioffe, at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, spent one day on Sea Lion Island, and then sailed to South Georgia Island for a week's worth of landings. From there we headed to the Antarctic Peninsula and the surrounding islands and finally crossed the Drake Passage to the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia, Argentina.

The overwhelming impression I now have of Antarctica is that it is a place of great mystery, reluctant  to reveal its secrets. I don't mean to say that we didn't see a lot.  From the deck of our ship and during our many landings we saw an incredible abundance of wildlife, beautiful outcrops, and countless glaciers and mountain peaks.

But we never got more than a half day's hike from shore as we had to return to the ship every evening.  (No, there are no hotels or B&Bs in Antarctica.) Even though we were blessed with remarkably fine weather and views of rarely seen peaks, beyond the glaciers and snowfields and snow covered mountains that we could see lay another three thousand miles of ice, snow and rock that we couldn't see.  In order to see beyond the outer rim of Antarctica one would have to make an journey such as Ernest Shackleton attempted with the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition back in 1914. As you may know, his ship, the Endurance, was ultimately crushed in the ice and neither Shackleton nor any of the crew ever reached the continent, though through Shackleton's and their own efforts they were all eventually rescued.

I know that some people return from Antarctica feeling they can cross it off their list of places to visit. But I feel drawn to return and I'm sure a lot of that has to do with its mysterious nature and its inaccessibility. While it is always a pleasure to return to place that you know is beautiful, it is more compelling to go someplace where you are sure of finding something new and unexpected.

The following photo, taken late in the evening along the Antarctic Peninsula, embodies this mystery.  What is beyond that snow field, behind the clouds of snow carried on the wind? This photo also shows some of the surprisingly brilliant colors of the continent. When I used to think of Antarctica I thought of snow and when I thought of snow I thought of white. The reality is full of color, some subtle, some brilliant, but always changing.

Shortly after returning from this trip I took Valori Wells' class "The Signature Quilt" at QuiltCon:  the Modern Quilt Guild Show.   The materials list suggested using a photo for color inspiration and I chose this one.  Here is the resulting top (26" x 35").  I wouldn't say it captures the mystery, but I think it does capture the colors.  It reminds me of Gee's Bend quilts, which I have admired but not yet modeled my own quilts after. I am still trying to decide how to quilt this one, though I do intend to do it by hand.

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