Antarctica Day is nearly upon us, but you'd be forgiven if it's not on your calendar. The celebration started only a decade ago, and it's still coming into its own as a holiday. Antarctica Day is celebrated on December 1st to recognize the anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty 61 years ago. Thanks to the Treaty, Antarctica is still a place of peace, discovery, and wonder. There's a lot to celebrate, but how exactly?
There aren't any longstanding Antarctica Day traditions, but we've compiled a few suggestions. You can explore Antarctica through media, participate in Antarctica Day events, learn about Antarctica with lessons and activities, and commit to improving the future of Antarctica.
You won't have time to make it to the Ice before Dec. 1st, but luckily there's a wealth of ways to explore the continent from your armchair. Here are a few of our favorites.
If you're interested in seeing some of Antarctica's natural wonders, few docu-series compare to BBC's Frozen Planet. If you're curious about the human side of things, Antarctica: A Year on Ice gives an intimate look at life at an Antarctic base. If documentaries aren't your style, The Thing is a classic 80's sci-fi horror that holds a special place in Antarctic tradition. For a family-friendly alternative, check out Disney's Eight Below.
The Worst Journey in the World, a harrowing but inspiring book written by the youngest member of Scott's fatal expedition, stands out among the many first-hand accounts of Antarctic exploration. Endurance is another extraordinary tale from the Heroic Age of Exploration but told second-hand in a more accessible style. For a modern Antarctic book, we recommend Big Dead Place, a funny and frank look at life at an American Antarctic research station. If fiction is more your speed, try Chasing the Light, a fictionalized account of the first women to set foot on the continent.
If you're curious about Antarctic history, Ice Coffee is a detailed (if sometimes profanity-laden) podcast with a back-catalog large enough to keep you entertained for months. For podcasts that deal with the present and future of the continent, take a listen to the entertaining interviews on A Voyage to Antarctica and Antarctica Unfrozen. (A new season of Antarctica Unfrozen will launch on Antarctica Day.)
Like with everything else, COVID-19 has put a damper on Antarctica Day events. Although there are fewer goings-on than usual, the good news is that you can participate in the events from anywhere in the world. For starters, you can join us in raising the True South flag of Antarctica in real life or online. (If you fly True South on your social media, be sure to tag us on Facebook or Instagram.)
You can also participate in one of the several virtual events hosted by National Antarctic Programs. The British Antarctic Survey and US Antarctic Program are teaming up for a week of online talks aimed at students and families. The Netherlands Polar Program is hosting a two-hour online program which will feature a guest appearance by True South. Japan's National Institute of Polar Research and the Norwegian Polar Institute are hosting virtual events in Japanese and Norwegian respectively.
Other organizations are getting in on the Antarctica Day celebrations as well. The Antarctic Youth Coalition in partnership with the Hobart City Council is hosting an Antarctica Day Festival with videos, quizzes and discussions in English and Spanish. The Polar Tourism Guide Association will have a live talk on using citizen science in education, and the UK Polar Network is organizing a virtual Antarctic trivia session.
If you're a parent, teacher, or anyone with a young person in their life, Antarctica Day is a great time to introduce them to some of the wonders of the continent. There are kid-friendly versions of the Antarctic Treaty available in several languages. The Australian Antarctic Division and the American Museum of Natural History have fantastic online teaching resources to fit just about any subject at a variety of learning levels. Miami University has more than a dozen downloadable lesson plans, complete with activity sheets and rubrics.
If you are an educator who would like to have a person in Antarctica participate in your lesson, reach out to us and we'll work to put you in touch with someone. Live video conferencing from Antarctica is difficult, but letter exchanges, phone calls, and prerecorded videos are all feasible.
Antarctica Day isn't just about celebrating Antarctica's past and present, it's also about working toward a better future for the continent. Antarctica Day is a great day to make a simple resolution to change your behavior in a way that reduces your environmental impact, such as committing to commuting by bike once a week. Big changes happen at a policy level, though, so you can also use this day to write to your representative and ask what they're doing to preserve Antarctica. (Click these links to find your representative in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, or India)
If you have the means to financially support conservation efforts, we suggest donating to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, the only nonprofit with observer status in the Antarctic Treaty regime. If you have a specific Antarctic mission you'd like to support (whale conservation, for example), you can also donate to any of the individual coalition members.
Antarctica Day, like the continent itself, doesn't belong to a single person. You get to decide for yourself how you observe it, and the options don't end with this list. No matter what you choose to do, we hope you'll join us in celebrating this incredible place.