Thursday, January 9, 2014



 HI NAMAZU HERE! I ALWAYS TAKE PRIDE IN PRESENTING THE WORK OF MY MENTOR AND THE GUY WHO REALLY STARTED MY CAREER HERE AT AAB,  VIC SOCOTRA. Enjoy a causal look inside a typical day for Vic as he explains why all those Aussies were on a Russian ice capable expedition ship. We tend to think of Aussies as partial to beach going, surfing , and barbecuing. But Vic explains that "Down Under" there has been and continues to be serious interest and contributions to the South Polar region. If you don't have the daily habit yet you should really consider reading the DAILY SOCOTRA

Terra Incognita
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(Stranded: The MV Akademik Shokalskiy stuck in the ice off East Antarctica. Photo The Guardian of the UK). 

OK- that is out of the way. I typed the date without falter or miscue, and now realize fully that we have leapt the annual shark and arrived here in the familiar terra incognita of the un-knowable familiar future. 

I mean, this is something over sixty times around the sun the hard way, and there shouldn’t really be that much new in our spinning world under it. 

I mentioned something like that to Old Jim at Willow last night as we grappled with the impending end of the Old Year. The bar was empty when I got there via the Uber Cab- I was taking no chances on enhanced enforcement, though I had no intention of staying out until the magic hour. 

Accordingly, I did not restrict myself to Happy Hour White and abandoned any pretext of objectivity. Jim was a little cross, as he had lost track of his bride, who may (or may not) have risen from a nap to collect the dog from his canine day camp. The uncertainty did not slow us down appreciably, and he was eventually reunited with Mary at the bar. 

She elected champagne, which is an appropriate way to end one year and begin another. I clicked the Uber icon on the phone to go home when it seemed like it was the appropriate time. No driving, life is good. 

I fell asleep in my chair well before midnight and woke naturally with the countdown to the Brave New Year still comfortably far away. 


(Doug Mawsom at the magnetic South Pole with companions Mackay and David, 16 January 1909).

It came and went, that surreal moment when one year dies and another is born. I managed to get back to sleep and roused not too much after the normal time. It was a little surreal, to have traveled so far in so little time. 

I enjoy a delightful banter in the morning with an old comrade perched on the shoulder of a mountain some place, and he was on a tear about the ship trapped in the ice off Antarctica. You probably have seen the accounts of the attempts to rescue the occupants of the Motor Vessel Akademik Shokalskiy, which have, for the most part, ignored the reason for the predicament in which they crew and passengers have found themselves locked in the ice. 

A couple key points: It may be winter here, but down below it is coming on high summer. My pal Dave just got back from a cruise to look at the penguins and Patagonia, so I did not think about the motivation for the expedition. 

According to the publicity, the voyage was intended to follow the steps of the 1913 exploration of the famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson, and demonstrate the damage of climate change, and how much warmer things are these days. You know, the usual. 

The problem, of course, is that there is a lot more ice around in the Antarctic than there was then, so the story isn’t playing out quite that well from the climate change perspective. Accordingly, that element of the saga has been edited out. 

Anyway, I wish the crew and passengers the best, and hope that they are rescued without further travail. 

But of course, that led from one thing to another and I got lost in the account of Professor Mawson, and his adventures on the ice a century ago. 

The Daily Mail of the UK has no lack of irony, and they started with: "Perhaps, with hindsight, it was a mistake to christen the expedition the Spirit of Mawson in memory of Sir Douglas Mawson, the great Edwardian-age Australian explorer in whose icy footsteps the mission hoped to follow."

Mawson was a piece of work, and the saga of his survival on the ice captures a certain amount of hubris on his part as well. 

Mawson in his later years. (PD-Old-50, Source Australian Govt.)

"His 1911-1913 expedition came badly unstuck. On a trek into the interior, Mawson and his crew lost most of their food supplies when their sledge disappeared into a crevasse" (along with one of his friends). 
Stuck 350 miles from the coast with only one and a half weeks’ worth of food, Mawson nearly came to an end as sticky as legendary British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s earlier that same year. 

Mawson and his surviving companion, Mertz, were driven to eating their dogs, unaware that the concentration of vitamin A in their livers was poisonous. The men’s hair fell out; the soles of Mawson’s feet fell off; Mertz ultimately went mad, and not knowing he was suffering from frostbite, bit off the top of his finger before he died.

By the time Mawson staggered back to his main base in February, 1913, (the supply ship Aurora had departed hours before, and when it was recalled it was too late to depart and Mawson had to winter over). His exploring days were not done, but he dined out of the horrific experience for years, and there is currently an effort underway to restore his historic huts on the Antarctic mainland.

Mawson lived until 1958, and was held in high regard by his countrymen, being honored with his portrait on the one hundred dollar note and the one-dollar coin. 

I seriously doubt that anyone on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy will be so honored, but you never can tell. We have abandoned any pretense of science as objective truth, you know? This is a bold new year with all sorts of amazing things to discover, and re-imagine.  

And besides, it is really only terra incognita if you haven’t really been there before, you know?

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

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