On first coming to Argentina, I was amused to find that every map of the country included a little pie-slice of Antarctica. Whether it was the bus map, the television weather forecast, or the Aerolineas Argentinas in-flight magazine, no map of Argentina was complete without the two dots of the Falklands Islas Malvinas and a little inset in the corner showing a blank wedge of Antarctica, much in the way American maps will sometimes show Alaska. [...]
We've been conditioned by National Geographic and the Discovery channel to speak of Antarctica in hushed superlatives and treat it as an awesome spectacle of God's Creation. But it is worth pointing out that Antarctica is an armpit. By any objective standard, the place is cold, sterile, windy, dry, and has no night life to speak of. The nearest land mass is remote and windy Tierra del Fuego, which nevertheless comes out looking like Las Vegas by comparison. The only people genuinely excited about Antarctica are climatologists, who inevitably go there just to make dire discoveries that bring everybody else down, and astronomers, who resent human settlement and the atmosphere and are overjoyed to find a place with very little of either. Exobiologists get very excited about Antarctica as a laboratory for what life might look like in more exotic environments, like Mars or the moons of Jupiter, but this just serves as a useful reminder that life on earth has decided to take a pass on Antarctica. In a world where entire species of ants specialize in X-treme environments like 130 degree Nubian sands, the largest land species to choose Antarctica is a midge. This is not prime real estate, no matter how nice that wedge looks on the map.
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