I don’t think I was the only one who had trouble holding it together. We had come all this way and cashed in so much good fortune for the outside chance that we might see those eight Emperor penguins pick their way across the ice. And we did. In a world that can seem purpose-built and calculated for us, engineered for our safety and convenience, every part of that long-shot day, the entire lunatic trip, felt as fleeting as luck itself. That feeling is what I remember, and that’s why Antarctica remains impervious to memories and maps and the mental thumbtacks we might stick in them.

All of its settlements are temporary. Its borders migrate. Its landmarks are seasonal. Its ports are killer whales, and its capital cities are penguins.

Chris Jones goes to Antarctica for AFAR.


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Photo: marthaenpiet, Flickr