Armchair Exploring

I used to have a Planet Earth screensaver, consisting of animal images and wildlife facts flashing by at random:

“Only half of all polar bear cubs survive their first year out on the sea ice.”
“The Tibetan fox lives on the world’s highest plain where midsummer temperatures rarely rise above freezing” (his proud but indignant stare suggested that he wouldn’t mind living in a slightly warmer corner of the globe).
“The rare snow leopard can drag prey three times its own weight vertically up cliffs.”
“Antarctica is the driest, windiest, coldest and least populated continent on the planet.”
“A snow goose can outrun most predators.” And so on.

One morning, I noticed the following statement out of the corner of my eye; it had appeared above the image of a seal pouncing on a penguin: “Fur seals usually feed on krill. On Marion Island they take king penguins too.” Marion Island! How extraordinary and exciting a place this had to be! A place where cuddly, krill-eating fur seals turned into ferocious, carnivorous predators!

A quick internet scan revealed that Marion Island is a volcanic, uninhabited island situated in the Southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and the Antarctic; politically, it belongs, together with Prince Edward Island, to South Africa, and geographically to the sub-antarctic islands. I learned that it hosts a weather station, that climate change has caused its snow and ice peaks to considerably melt since the 1960s, and that recent research on the island fauna includes “The dental pathology of feral cats on Marion Island: congenital, developmental and traumatic abnormalities.” It turned out that Marion Island is not a tourist destination and that access is limited to SANAP research team members.

Well, one can dream.

And the longer I think about savage seals and mutant feral cats…

4 thoughts on “Armchair Exploring

  1. You should look at Kerguelen Island (also known as “Desolation Island”), it’s a fascinating place.

    The only way to go there is by boat. There is only one boat which travel to the Kerguelen, 2 times in a year, starting in Réunion Island. It’s a one month trip … or you could choose to stay with the scientific team in the island and wait 6 month for the next boat.

    You should also read “l’arche des Kerguelen”, it’s an amazing, amazing book.
    http://www.amazon.com/Arch-Kerguelen-Voyage-Islands-Desolation/dp/1568581688

  2. Thank you, that sounds absolutely fascinating, I will definitely check it out!

    I recently got a book called “Atlas of Remote Islands” (Atlas der abgelegenen Inseln), by Judith Schalansky – it’s not translated into English or French yet, but I will try to blog about it soon.

  3. it’s fascinating to know that there are still some places in this world which have been kept from tourism- i know it would be lovely to go there, but we’ve destroyed so much of our land that it’s reassuring to know there are still some places which are in their pristine condition. curious to go though!

  4. I totally agree, Shayma, sometimes armchair travelling is the better option. More economic and more ecologic. Also, I created this wonderful, fascinating place in my imagination and would be really disappointed to find the cold, barren, windswept place it probably is…

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