Imagine what it could be like to be in Antarctica…
- Research an historic Antarctic expedition (such as one led by Mawson, Shackleton, Amundsen or Scott). Write diary entries for a couple of days during the most challenging part of the expedition.
- Have students act out Douglas Stewart's powerful radio play, The Fire on the Snow, about Scott's final dash to the Pole and tragic return trip. Discuss Stewart's use of language to convey the desolation of Antarctica and the despair of the men. What sense do you get of the different characters of Scott's party?
In The Fire On the Snow, Wilson poses this question as Scott's party arrives at the Pole to find Amundsen's party has beaten them there:
'What if they're still about? How weird it would be
A miracle really, to meet them here at the Pole.
It's exciting enough to think that other men
Have fought as we have right to the end of the world:
Can you imagine meeting other human beings
On this lonely, terrible, endless desert of ice?'
- Discuss this idea with your class. Have the students role-play such a meeting, being sure to brief each actor about their character's particular temperament and personality e.g. Wilson the doctor and artist, good-natured and generous; Scott the leader, ambitious, inflexible, driven, self-absorbed; Amundsen the Norwegian, practical, realistic etc. (see The Fire on the Snow, Huntford's Scott and Amundsen, or the Readers Digest Services' Antarctica: the extraordinary history of man’s conquest of the frozen continent for these details).
- Have students imagine that they are Douglas Mawson out on an exploratory journey with two companions. They can describe their thoughts and feelings as each of these things happen:
- One of your two companions vanishes down a crevasse and you and your other companion are left without three-quarters of your food and shelter.
- You have just lost your second companion (he died in his sleep).
- You are now alone and 250 kilometres from your home base.
- With little strength left, you fall down a crevasse, dangling at the end of a 5 metre safety rope. The rope is attached to your sled, which is jammed across the crevasse.
- You finally reach base camp, only to see your supply ship sailing north, leaving you in Antarctica for another year.