Research Blog Antarctica #42

Comic: Mike O’Sullivan, Andrew Dabb & Tim Seeley: G.I. Joe: Special Missions: Antarctica (Devil’s Due, 2006)

I’m afraid objectivity just flew out of the window. G.I. Joe, or Action Force as they were known in Finland, were easily my favorite toys and comics when I was a kid, trumping even Legos and the X-Men. A retro fashion for toy-related Eighties comics such as G.I. Joe and Transformers has led to the publication of new G.I. Joe comics, this one among them.

I read this stuff through rose-colored lenses. It features all kinds of cool stuff, from the improbably well designed Snow Vipers to Scarlett’s new look which incorporates a duster coat. The Snow Vipers dress in white furs, WW1 era helmets and red commando masks, and their weapon of choice is the sai. Nevertheless, they look good, or maybe that’s just because I really loved the Snow Viper action figure when I was ten.

This is good, clean fun, and even manages a plot twist. There’s a surprisingly good grasp of Antarctica, even if the feasibility of Antarctic oil drilling is rather exaggerated. They even have those character profiles I remember from the old comics, and from the packaging of the toys. Wheeee!

Hard Evidence

I got a stack of old photographs as a birthday present from my grandmother a while ago. I’ve only ever seen a very few pictures of when I was a child, so I was happy to see these. My mother has told me that I used to play the violin when I was a kid. I have only very vague memories of this, but it seems its true:


(Photo: Rauha S. Virtanen)

Notice also my patriotic choice of sportswear.

Research Blog Antarctica #41

Non-fiction: Caroline Alexander: Endurance (Otava 1998/1999)

This is the book that launched the turn-of-the-millennium Shackleton craze. This is at least the fifth time I see or read the story in some form or another, soI was prepared to be bored. The writing is engaging, however, and the photos are used very well. In the interests of narrative flow and focus, Alexander has left the supporting Aurora party almost completely out of the narrative. The Aurora story is not one of Shackleton’s brightest moments, and gives the lie to the usual claim that he never lost a man on an expedition.

This is a good choice if you want to read just one book about Antarctica.

Research Blog Antarctica #40

Fiction film: George Miller: Happy Feet (U.S.A./Australia, 2006)

A really good animated movie about tapdancing penguins. Visually very striking, and I appreciated both the obvious amount of research about Antarctica that had gone into this movie and the way they put all the possibilities of CGI into good use for once. Bizarrely, this was directed by the same guy who made all the Mad Max movies.

Its really great to see a movie where they seem to have understod what’s really cool about Antarctica and know how to use it. I never would have thought I would say this, but it seems that a movie in which Hugh Jackman plays a rockabilly penguin called Memphis may actually be one of the most accurate Antarctica movies I’ve ever seen in terms of how things work down there.

Research Blog Antarctica #39

Non-fiction: David G. Campbell: The Crystal Desert – Summers in Antarctica (Mariner Books, 2002)

A slightly generic account of an American scientist’s stay at a Brazilian Antarctic station. Perhaps unfortunately I would have been interested in reading about the particulars of the Brazilian Antarctic program, but Campbell is interested in writing a general account of Antarctic biology, peppered with some anecdotes about his personal experiences.

His prose style is a bit dense, florid enough to make the text resist reading. I started reading this on an airplane after sleeping for only 45 minutes the previous night and hauling 50 kilos of luggage for three metro stops on foot in Paris because the metro didn’t run in the middle of the night, so it’s possible I didn’t approach this book from the best possible direction.

Still, Campbell writes about life, and especially marine biology, with the zeal of a believer, and his descriptions are very evocative. The historical material he goes through concerning sealing and whaling is old to me, but he tells it well. He quotes extensively from his source material of whaler diaries and so forth, which is good.

Perhaps the most grabbing detail of the book was mentioned in passing: turns out the government of South Africa admitted in 1992 that the mystery Antarctic nuclear detonation of 1979 was a joint Israeli – South African nuclear test.