I want to go to Antarctica

Fort Churchill Canada

Air New Zealand announced a competition where the prize is a two-week trip to the Antarctic with a National Geographic photographer. Personally, I can think of little else that would be as much fun with your clothes on and it's definitly on my bucket list to go there.

The application consists of creating a voice-over for a thirty-second video clip that the organisers had compiled. I plugged myself as best as I could, talking about my experiences in the Arctic as a child; being a professional guide in Northern Canada; helping to set up the first Marine reserve in Central America and my teaching experiences in Nepal and India. I figured it made me sound kind of interesting but the reality is that it probably just made me sound more like a boastful old fart than I really am. So be it, if I could go on this trip.

The contest reminded me of my time as a child living in northern Canada and I dug out some photographs that my father had taken when we lived in Fort Churchill, Manitoba.

Fort Churchill is now a tourist destination, as the polar bears migrate through it on an annual basis, and people come to watch them (before they are completely exterminated by man's global idiocy).

The whole thing was a living hell for my mother, as the polar bears used to kill two or three people a year in those days. They would chase people up poles and onto roofs and then just wait until they turned into the polar bear equivalent of a popsicle and fell off. Game over.

We were all roped together in bad weather during the winter when we went out, partly because of the bears and partly because at 40 below zero, with the visibility down to metres, losing a child could be unfortunate. But gosh, for a kid it was fun!

We got to ride on dog sleds and visit real Eskimos and Indians, the Indians sadly and obviously (even to me as a child) ravaged by the curse of alcohol. There was no television. so I became a voracious reader, which had stood me in good stead ever since. Of course, this was well before JK Rowling, who as an aside I think should be canonised for introducing reading to so many young children in an era of multimedia overload.

My sister and I got to build igloos. This snow is hard packed and can be carved into blocks which you then use to build the igloo. The tricky bit, of course, is doing the arch with the keystones (or key blocks in this case). All in all, it was a pretty neat place to live as a child for a while and probably kindled a desire to go back north that later resulted in me working as a guide as a young man.

As I've said before, my father instilled a love of photography into me and it is fascinating to review them nearly 60 years later. Some are very interesting and they are of course a pictorial record of a unique environment and time.

PS. I didn’t win.