11 June 2021

#AntarcticLog: An Abecedarium of Pleasures and Perils 

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#AntarcticLog is a series of comics by Karen Romano Young. You can find the originals here

Like many of us, I come from many worlds.  One is children’s publishing. I’ve published more than two dozen books for children, including novels, nonfiction, graphic novels, and graphic nonfiction. One type of children’s book I’ve never published is an abecedarium — an alphabetical list related to a particular subject.  ( It turns out that just because you love a form of writing, you’re not necessarily cut out for it. Oh well.)  But that doesn’t mean I can’t bang out an abecedarium in science comic form.

Another world I come from is Connecticut. Small towns, white steeples, traditional and a bit quiet. Therefore I got a lot of questions about the dangers of Antarctica, and they came home to roost in my brain shortly before my first journey.

Now I know that Antarctica is not designed to be hospitable to humans. In fact, from the moment you arrive — and even before (ask me about the Drake Passage sometime) you sense that the place is set up to kill you. It helped that I had created this #AntarcticLog comic, a list of just a few of the ways the place can kill you. (Believe me, I had to leave a lot out!)

Just one qualifier: can you really die of frozen nose-hairs? I hope not, but I’ve seen photos of people with icicles seeming to fill their noses, almost down to their toeses. And I’m not sure the almost requisite beards are that helpful.

I researched the perils ABC in part by talking to people who had already been to Antarctica, and by reading posts and blogs from the field.  It was easy enough to come up with 26; harder to keep to that number — and to resist telling the stories, or multiple stories, behind each entry. But something else came out of the research — the joy, the pleasure, the surprises. So I just had to follow up with a second abecedarium:

And again, one qualifier: Not everyone in Antarctica has experienced the pleasure of yodelling. If you’re going, I encourage you to try.

Karen Romano Young is a writer, artist, deep-sea diver, and polar explorer. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram