“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” –Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand polar explorer and mountaineer
Besides McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s Ross Island is the location of one other lonely outpost: the New Zealand Antarctic Program’s Scott Base, population: “LOTS,” as the sign at its border reads. At this time of the year, “LOTS” means that around fifty-five happy Kiwis live snugly within a central building that looks like a space station…and otherwise puts McMurdo to shame. Less than three miles away from McMurdo, Scott Base has benefited from forethought in both strategy and design. The entire settlement could fit within an area less than a half a football field in length; by comparison, McMurdo’s hasty beginnings and its heedlessness to aesthetic principles make it an unsightly case of suburban sprawl.
The Scott Base structures are uniformly painted lime green, a color that looks out of place on a continent that has no native vegetation, but its matching palette makes the station look neat—almost sleek—in a way that McMurdo never will be. Attention to detail and design-consciousness are Scott Base’s signatures—from its glossy turquoise fire extinguishers to its Euro-designed dining chairs, which are the colors of autumn leaves.
Named after polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott, the New Zealand station is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this week. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark is currently on Ross Island for the celebration, along with the 87-year-old Sir Edmund Hillary, a Kiwi mountaineer and explorer who has attained celebrity-type status. I wonder if we’ll see them over the hill at McMurdo, but if they knew what was good for them, they would stay at Scott Base.
Life’s better there.
(The food, the parties, and the bar are also better. Scientists in drag in the Scott Base Skirt Party, above).