Visitors to Antarctica are often awed and humbled by its size, and its extreme climate. But it also caused the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt to reflect on the human ability to solve problems together – and to feel hope for the future.
We take off from a glacier near McMurdo, the main US research centre in Antarctica, heading for the middle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
After an hour all you can see out of the small circular window is ice stretching to the far horizon.
An hour later, the same.
The following hour, no change…
You get the picture.
We finally land after three-and-a-half hours in the air.
The nearest human habitation – the US scientific base we flew from – is now as far from us as Moscow is from London… and there is only ice in between.
The sheer size of the ice sheet makes it almost impossible for visitors not to reflect on the insignificance of an individual human being.
“It makes you feel so small,” is what everyone says.
But dig a bit deeper and you discover most people don’t mean they feel a sense of threat; Antarctica doesn’t belittle you.
In fact, lots of people find there is something reassuring about being in the presence of something so much bigger and stronger than they are.
Gabrielle Walker, the author of my favourite book about Antarctica, writes about this.
We all like to think we are…