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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Vista: A Break in the Storm

Air Date: Week of

The Antarctic Peninsula as the sun rises. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, takes us to the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula as dramatic storm clouds part.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

BASCOMB: And I’m Bobby Bascomb. And now a trip to the edge of Antarctica with Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.

A Break in the Storm
Antarctic Peninsula
© 2020 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

We depart our last anchorage and port of call and haul away and into the storm.

Now outside the bight…

Now, passing the sharp outline of the promontory...

And now the sea. Irate! The older sibling wishing you were never born.

The sky is a coffin lid tucked all in on itself. The sea ice, torn. The spray stings like a live thing with a mind to do you harm! I pull my great coat close to my face and hunker behind the rails. Shelter is the errand of a fool in this. You might as well extend your arms your fingers spread and claim that you can fly. And we make the turn towards our ship and meet the gale head on.

Cape Petrel gather on Astrolabe Island. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The wake spirals off the stern (no one could keep a straight course in this). And we are weather blind. No sign of a hundred meters of steel and gear, white knuckled to the safety line. And with an effort of will I lift my eyes, and risk a glance to the weather side where my reward for being brave (such bravery as I can mount) is not the safety that we seek, but a once in a lifetime sight:

The ocean parts from black and roiling clouds.

The horizon splits in two.

As sudden as a magnesium flare from the break of sky and sea an otherworldly light pours through:

Antarctic Peninsula!

All along the line mountains rise, glaciers crest in frozen curves, roiling snow across the peaks like smoke, where nothing burns:

Antarctic Peninsula!

This must be how the planets look that orbit distant stars human beings will never see, not even in the mind’s eye. Rare as a galleon coin, wave-tossed, among the bracken lost, a world, a world entire stands apart:

Antarctic Peninsula!

The tumbling edge of a glacier. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The name rings like a Ship’s Bell.

Like Victory when all is lost.

The lifting of a Magic Spell.

Antarctic Peninsula!

This hour, this day, I will remember all my Life.

BASCOMB: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.
To see Mark’s photos from the Antarctic Peninsula, visit our website, LOE.org.



Read Mark's Field Note for this essay

For more from Mark Seth Lender, visit his website

Mark Seth Lender’s fieldwork is arranged through Destination Wildlife


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