Monday, July 27, 2009

Encounters at the End of the World


Werner Herzog's voice over still rings in my ear.
Along with the eerie sounds of seals calling each other, and the voices of the inhabitants of the McMurdo station in Antarctica.
A bright red worm living in the anus of some sea creature. Sea urchins. Baby seals. A linguist turned indoor gardener. The descendant of an Aztec royal line.
A penguin that decided to go the other way, nobody standing on his way. Somebody moves out of the way so there is nothing between this strange strange bird and his inevitable death, some kilometers away.
But, above all of it, the light: the sun changing, self-reflecting.
The ice is a mirror, and the sun is Narcissus. The sun moving slowly all summer long, never disappearing. The perennial ice of the surface, and the moving underworld. Everybody there is just passing through. never staying.
All the workers, scientists and not, of McMurdo are outcasts "no strings attached, so we fell from the world, to the bottom" says one.
Another one, too traumatized to speak of how he got there, shows how to be ready to go all the time: a backpack that would allow anybody fit enough, to start a new life any second, anywhere in the world.
Survival.
Survival.
Survival.
For humans and plants alike, the life in Antarctica is all about survival. Every single second of those 100 minutes, the palms of your hands sweat with the tingly feeling that somebody or something might just not make it.
Truth is: nobody will make it.
The geologists, the vulcanologists, the biologists there, all agree on something: we are not much more than an error over the surface of an odd planet. Our days are numbered.
Like with Belshazzar, it is written in the wall, Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin
Our days are numbered: our deeds have been measured, and we have been found guilty.
And yet, the urge of knowledge: what is there? what is that? how big, how small, how deep, how hot or cold? when did this happen, when will it happen again?

We will vanish soon, but not without knowing.

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