Maps, surfaces and depths were all themes that came up multiple times at the 2015 SCAR History, Humanities and Social Sciences Workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado. Ximena Senatore spoke about early whale charts and ocean mapping, bringing the issues of space, mapping, and commerce in Antarctica to the fore. Continuing with the map theme, Carol Devine’s project “Mapping Women and the Antarctic Wilderness: Appearance and Disappearance” seeks to catalogue and visually represent all the Antarctic place names named after (the often absent) women. Examples such as Queen Elizabeth Land and the Adelie Coast immediately spring to mind, but others such as Péron Bay (after Evita Péron) and Mt Bradshaw (named for Margaret Bradshaw, of Canterbury) have great stories attached to them too. Carol is also creating an artwork from her data, which is super exciting – I’ll be keeping an eye out for further developments on this front.
— carol devine (@caroldevine) May 22, 2015
Of particular interest was Alessandro Antonello’s talk “The Deep South: volumes and depths of the Antarctic in the 1970s” where he showed how Antarctica was transformed from a 2D surface on which geopolitics happens into a more complex, 3D integrated system in which there is geopolitics. Volume is often overlooked, but is present in the Antarctic in many ways: volume of the Southern Ocean, volume of krill swarms, volume of ice, volume of mineral resources. As Alessandro pointed out, “volume” has tensions with views of a networked ecosystem, yet it plays an important role: geopolitics is not just about space, but earth numbers eg. carbon ppm, flows of oil, and other geometrics. The earth can’t be understood simply in terms of representations and discourse, as there is a fixity we need to deal with. Volume and depth is one way of approaching this idea of concreteness. This area has the potential to be developed further, as “depth” can also be interpreted metaphorically (layers of stories, for instance). Indeed, it could well form the theme for a further conference, particularly if combined with the idea of mapping.
Speaking of maps, Jørgen Alnæs’ work on “Mapping Antarctica,” where he examines maps of the Antarctic in the Norwegian media, could have some links to my project on Antarctica and media. Jørgen uses discourse analysis and post-colonial theory to approach the question “to what extent does the journalistic coverage of Antarctica and the Antarctic politics represent a particular understanding of Norway’s privileges in Antarctica, and how is this linked to Polar Policy?” Maps don’t only tell us about the world we live in, but structure our ways of perceiving that world. The labeling of maps and their orientation (what is centered? what is given precedence?) can reveal much about the values of the mappers. In this case, Antarctic maps always labeled the Norwegian Troll Station, the South Pole, and Norway’s claimed sector, but no other features. In NZ it’s often the case that the Ross Sea region is highlighted, along with Scott Base, so there are parallels to other places.
Jørgen’s talk got me thinking about other uses of mapping, and I was reminded of the “blue marble’ image of earth, as taken from space. This picture is often used as the background to contemporary climate debates, with the globe tilted so as to foreground Antarctica, as the continent stands for a fragile climate system. This is directly linked to my project, where I look at representations of Antarctica, and what the continent has been used to stand for. “Fragile Climate Indicator” is currently the tentative title of my fifth chapter.
The theme of mapping surfaces and depths is one that really resonated with me throughout the conference. There’s so much potential to apply this as a lens when looking at Antarctica and come out with really fruitful (or “deep”) results. I look forward to seeing what comes of the research presented, and to developing the links forged in Colorado, at the edge of the “wilderness.”