It’s the world’s least visited, least populated continent. On the very best day, this can be very onerous to get to. And but, the attraction of the unknown and the need to set foot on each continent have inspired vacationers to attempt to make their strategy to the South Pole.
Nonetheless, for the obsessive catalogers of the world, Antarctica is tough to categorise. It isn’t a rustic, so are you able to cross it off a bucket checklist? Who controls it? If it had a capital metropolis, the place would it not be? What can be the native language?
A nationwide flag for a nation-less place
These had been among the many questions that Evan Townsend posed to himself when he signed up for the primary of two stints working at McMurdo Station, the US-run base in Antarctica.
Townsend, an elementary faculty instructor in Boston, knew he had a strict baggage restrict when going to Antarctica to work as a help staffer — everybody is proscribed to 85 kilos, he says, which has to incorporate garments, toiletries, drugs, electronics and the rest they could need or want throughout their keep.
Sooner or later, Townsend and some colleagues took the Pleasure flag exterior and snapped photographs of themselves to publish on social media. The photographs ended up turning into a world story, with many information retailers saying the outing was Antarctica’s first-ever Pleasure parade.
“That was once I realized the ability of flags,” Townsend says. “On one hand, I am utterly remoted on the finish of the Earth. And alternatively, I am a part of this world neighborhood.”
Regardless of not having a background in design, Townsend identifies as a longtime “flag nerd” and started to toy with the thought of making a flag to symbolize Antarctica.
“I wished it to be a impartial flag, for positive,” Townsend says. “It is a distinct design, it is a distinct shade, to be sure that it is not affiliated with any explicit group or nationality. I wished it to be one thing that had quite a lot of symbolism, however that was easy sufficient that individuals might apply their very own notion of Antarctic and their very own understanding of the continent to the flag.”
Swedish nurse Johanna Davidsson did not set out for the South Pole aiming for a world report — however she walked away with one anyway.
The identify of the flag challenge, True South, additionally has its personal significance.
“‘True south’ actually means the path towards the geographic south pole, versus magnetic south which might result in the magnetic south pole,” Townsend explains. “it is meant to symbolize the shared targets and values by which the Antarctic neighborhood can orient itself.”
And Townsend has no plans to trademark or copyright the flag’s design, as he believes it ought to belong to the entire world.
“The most effective flags are flags that get their which means and their energy from the people who fly them,” he provides.
Who’s in cost right here, anyway?
Townsend is simply one of many many individuals across the globe who’re transfixed by Antarctica, even when they’re by no means capable of go to and see the place for themselves.
So, what’s it in regards to the southernmost continent that continues to entrance individuals?
In a world that is extra interconnected than ever, Antarctica stays one of many few locations that most individuals do not know something about.
The one everlasting installations are a handful of scientific stations, which solely make use of scientists and their help employees — a time period comprising anybody from cooks and upkeep employees to electricians and airport managers.
It’s normal for individuals to multitask. Townsend labored in meals service, as a bartender and as a craft room supervisor throughout his tenure. At its peak, the variety of human Antarctic residents is roughly 10,000.
Among the many objects they agreed on was that that Antarctica ought to “be used for peaceable functions solely” and that science can be on the forefront of any growth or settlement there. Members of the army are allowed to be there, however solely in help roles.
Though few individuals reside there, Antarctica’s scope of affect is huge. Local weather change has brought about the continent to shrink. And regardless of the treaty’s existence, world politics have modified and new energy gamers — specifically China — have emerged in Antarctica.
The True South flag flies alongside the flags of the unique 12 Antarctic Treaty Signatories on the ceremonial South Pole.
Courtesy Lisa Minelli/True South
Klaus Dodds, professor of Geopolitics on the College of London, is the writer of a number of books in regards to the polar areas, most lately “The Arctic: A Very Quick Introduction,” co-authored with Jamie Woodward.
“Stuff simply retains being taken from Antarctica. Data, ice, sources like seals and whales and fish,” he says. “Antarctica’s fragility, I believe, represents the fragility of the broader world.”
Whereas local weather change is the largest affect on Antarctica, there’s one other main issue that can solely develop extra important because the pandemic ebbs — tourism.
The way forward for the seventh continent
At present, america is the only largest supply of Antarctic tourism, however China is rapidly rising into second place, and Dodds believes inside in a decade it is going to prime the checklist.
Simply as nations jockey for energy with army bases and political maneuvers, Antarctica has grow to be one other website for his or her rivalries — and fears — to play out.
“No one can reply the query (of) who owns Antarctica,” Dodds says.
“I believe the Antarctic represents, in essence, not simply the idealism that the treaty represents, however it additionally represents the supreme contradictory nature of humanity extra usually. So for all of the issues we want to have fun in Antarctica, there’s additionally the ugliness of humanity.”
He factors to some main successes: Antarctica was the primary continent to be utterly freed from nuclear weapons. It is usually demilitarized.
One other instance of the continent’s potential for magnificence and unity? The True South flag, which Dodds admires.
“(It) is a well-intentioned reminder that Antarctica is a marvel. Antarctica ought to symbolize the easiest in all of us.”