Who’s behind the Antarctic Shop?

At work in Antarctica

Hi, my name is Nina and I am an Australia-based Antarctic guide, historian, writer and lover of the natural world.

Hi!

Thank you so much for visiting, it’s really wonderful to have you here! My name is Nina and I launched The Antarctic Shop in June 2020.

Now you’re here, I have something to tell you. I feel a bit weird about this project.

It’s pretty different from what I’ve done in the past, and definitely not what I thought I’d be doing this year. The truth is, I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing here yet.

But then, we’re all having a bit of a strange old year, aren’t we?

A little backstory . . .

For the past five summers I’ve worked as an expedition guide and historian on the Antarctic Peninsula. (That’s the long, skinny stretch of Antarctica that juts out like a panhandle to the north, towards South America).

Last summer, as we steamed past the jagged ridges of the South Shetland Islands and into the Gerlache Strait, I had this strange feeling. Like I was driving up a familiar street to visit an old friend.

The ship begins a dawn navigation through the Lemaire Strait

It hit me that things between me and Antarctica have changed.

Antarctica isn’t new and wild and exciting for me anymore.

It’s personal.

I care about this place in a deep way now. It’s become a friend, and I can’t undo that.

Shorelines of ice-smoothed stones and berg-scattered bays, once so mind-blowingly massive and surreal, are now as familiar as the local trails at home. I’ve walked these paths before, and they hold memories.

Together we have shared (or Antarctica has held and hosted) so many experiences of joy, pain, bliss, fear, frustration, awe, anger, hope. This is how we build intimacy with place. Exactly the same way as with people:

By giving time. Being open. Sharing things.

David Attenborough was onto it when he said “no one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.

So part of what I’m trying to do here is share some stories and sentiments from the South, to make it more accessible and real to those of us who haven’t had the good fortune to go there.

Tourism is changing. This summer, for the first time since the 1950s, it’s looking like there will be close to zero tourist visitors on Antarctic shores. Most companies have already called it for the first half of the season, if not the whole thing.

This pause is providing a much-needed opportunity for the rapidly-growing tourism industry to slow down. It’s time for us to take a moment and honestly assess our collective impact, direction and goals. This is an important time for Antarctic tourism, and no one knows where we’ll end up.

For now, it’s time to find new ways to reach people with our message about how amazing Antarctica is.

So here I am!

What is The Antarctic Shop trying to achieve?

The truth is, I’m not sure yet. It’s early days and this is still taking shape.

What will The Antarctic Shop become?

One thing’s for sure: it’s not about selling things.

I know it looks like it is – I mean, it’s a shop!

But, for me, this is not about selling things.

Shopping kind of sucks

Actually, I feel quite uncomfortable about trying to sell things at a time in history when some of us have so much more than we need, others don’t have enough, and the planet is buckling under the strain of us all.

And let’s face it. Do we really need more leggings / coasters / pillows? No. Of course we don’t.

I know that selling things will not solve the genuine problems that we, as a civilisation and a species, desperately need to address. In fact, it could exacerbate them.

And yet, this is where I’ve started. And I’m ok with that. Because it brought me here right now, writing this. Sharing images of Antarctica instead of waiting another day. Starting to talk about penguins and conservation instead of just thinking about it. Putting something out there instead of procrastinating because nothing’s ever quite good enough. Embarking on a journey with openness and curiosity about where it will lead.

It’s not forever. It’s a jumping off point. Here’s to jumping off points!

Zodiac driving in Neko Harbour

Where to next?

This year I was blessed with the incredible opportunity to author a book on Antarctica, published by Australian Geographic. I’ve been writing lectures and social media posts and blogs about Antarctica for years, but bringing all of this together and seeing it published a book of this calibre has been humbling and exciting.

I want to keep sharing what goes on down South in whatever way I can, to bring this amazing and inaccessible part of the world into peoples’ lives in a real way.

To make it less like a stranger and more of a friend.

Antarctica is ice-olated

I know that for most people, Antarctica might feel impossibly distant. For most of us, it doesn’t figure in our daily lives.

But the truth is, what happens there will affect every one of us.

As Antarctic ice continues to melt and ecosystems are destabilised, we’ll experience the impacts around the world. The southern hemisphere will probably experience some major changes in our weather patterns, and global ocean currents will shift.

And if all of Antarctica’s ice melted, sea levels would rise over 60 metres (good news – this isn’t likely to happen in the next several million years, if ever).

Still, Antarctica desperately needs our attention. It needs more protection.

The ‘real’ Antarctica

My main goal is to start filling this website with stories, info and ideas that make it a beautiful place for people to linger, read, maybe learn a little and come away feeling more peaceful and connected to Antarctica and the wild places on our planet.

I’d like to share some of my experiences of the real South – what it’s actually like down there, pros, cons and all.

I think that if we could all feel a little closer to the rest of the natural world we would be happier and kinder. To one another and to the planet. And that would be a good thing.

Tell your friends about Antarctica!

So if you have a look around and leave without buying anything – great!

If you read or see something Antarctica that gets you going and you share it with a friend, even better.

If you end up at your next family dinner, driving the conversation with talk about how awesome Antarctica is, and how we should probably all sign this petition to get the Southern Ocean protected: that’s the best!

Gentoo penguin chicks on the South Shetland Islands

Stay tuned . . .

Keep an eye out over the next few months for the stories behind each of the photos in the shop. It’s going to be part travelogue, part personal reflection, part info about the featured places and critters, and I hope it’ll be fun to read!

Also, some friends have asked me some questions about Antarctica, which I’m going to answer in some Q & A-style blog posts over the next little while. If you’d like to receive these, you can sign up here. And please submit your own questions here!

If you have any questions, you can drop me a line at asktheantarcticshop@gmail.com.

Adelie penguin on ice near Brown Bluff

Other than this I’m still feeling my way, as so many of us are these days. What seriously strange times . . .

I hope you and yours are all keeping happy, healthy and well.

Or as the seafarers say: wishing you fair winds and following seas!

Done here?