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An Antarctic Appeal

If you’ve visited the site lately, or follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice that I’ve been raising funds for a trip to the Ross Sea early next year.

Longtime readers won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been scheming to get to the Antarctic. You can’t be as restless a traveler as I am without feeling a persistent tug towards the bottom of the map. I’ve written about Antarctica both seriously and less seriously in the past, I've visited penguin colonies, and I’ve even gotten within spitting distance of the Antarctic Penninsula. What fascinates me is the contrast between the vibrant science being conducted in the far south and the absurdities of politics and personal ambition that have drawn people to this utterly inhuman continent since its discovery.

I’ve never thought of this site as a machine for making money. Writing here has been part of what makes travel fun, and being able to reach a (sometimes sizable!) audience with my writing is extraordinarily satisfying. In thirteen years of writing I’ve earned $200 from having two articles on the site anthologized, and felt lucky to get it. The world does not want for travel writers.

There are two reasons I’m asking for contributions now.

The first is simply the astronomical cost of the trip. The only way to reach historic sites on the Antarctic mainland is via scientific expedition or on an organized multi-week tour from New Zealand. Having failed to get on the science track, I’ve decided to try my luck with Russian icebreaker tourism. But this means an outlay of nearly $30,000.

The second reason is to bolster a future application for the Antarctc Artists and Writers program. I’ve applied for this program in the past unsuccessfully (curse you, Werner Herzog!), and hope I can eventually succeed. One of the criteria for awarding the fellowships is a demonstrated audience. By showing the NSF that people are willing to pay cash American money to send me to Antarctica, I hope to persuade them that I’m worth a place in the program. In return, an Antarctic fellowship would give me a chance to write here about places no tourists ever see.

Ultimately, the only reason you should support me is if you enjoy my writing. Nobody deserves to go to Antarctica. In return for your support, I’ve committed to writing at least seven long articles for this site. I’m particularly interested in the odd Polynesian history of the sub-antarctic islands, the marine and avian ecosystems of the far south, climate change, the oddball research stations (including a German and Italian base!) we’ll be visiting, Shackleton’s and Scott’s historic cabins, fluffy peguins, the vast American research station at McMurdo, and of course what it feels like to spend five weeks being seasick on a ship full of Russians and the kind of tourist who can afford to drop thirty large on a punishing cruise through the Southern Ocean.

I’ve set up some Kickstater reward levels (including audio and PDF versions of popular posts here, and a handsome signed Burrito Tunnel poster). But even a one dollar donation will be extraordinarily helpful.

My ultimate funding goal is $33,400 (covering the cost of the trip, air fare to New Zealand, travel insurance and someone to babysit Pinboard). With six days to go, I’ve raised over $21,000 from 628 backers. As a self-published author I can’t tell you how encouraging and gratifying it is to have that support, and whether or not I meet the ultimate funding goal, I won’t soon forget all the people who have helped me get this far.

You can find the details of the voyage, and a picture of that pretty draft Burrito Tunnel poster, on the Kickstarter page.

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Greatest Hits

The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel
The story of America's most awesome infrastructure project.

Argentina on Two Steaks A Day
Eating the happiest cows in the world

Scott and Scurvy
Why did 19th century explorers forget the simple cure for scurvy?

No Evidence of Disease
A cancer story with an unfortunate complication.

Controlled Tango Into Terrain
Trying to learn how to dance in Argentina

Dabblers and Blowhards
Calling out Paul Graham for a silly essay about painting

Attacked By Thugs
Warsaw police hijinks

Dating Without Kundera
Practical alternatives to the Slavic Dave Matthews

A Rocket To Nowhere
A Space Shuttle rant

Best Practices For Time Travelers
The story of John Titor, visitor from the future

100 Years Of Turbulence
The Wright Brothers and the harmful effects of patent law

Every Damn Thing

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Maciej Cegłowski


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