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In the Word
Photos by Kate and Luke Hartman

Bearing witness at the bottom of the world


PARADISE BAY, Antarctica — When I was 13, my English teacher asked us to write out a list of goals for our lives. I don’t remember most of my list, but, since that day, I’ve had my sights set on visiting Antarctica.

Kate Hartman | In the Word

Why? I never was  completely sure. Often, I’ll add a location to my list because I want to encourage the local Christians or to get to know the culture of the people. But in Antarctica, save for a few scientists at 50-some-odd field stations, there aren’t people.

Now I know it isn’t the people that called me here. It is the awe-inspiring creation.

Here, in the land of ice, snow and 15-meter swells on the Drake Passage, life nonetheless survives. Antarctic krill feed on delicate phytoplankton and, in turn, provide nutrient-rich food for penguins, Weddell seals and mammoth whales.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word …

— Psalm 148:7-8, New King James Version

Colonies upon colonies of gentoo and chinstrap penguins collect one stone at a time to build their nests, protecting their young chicks from the dangerous skua seabirds.

Fur seals sunbathe on icebergs. Leopard seals hunt, and adolescent orcas spin barrel rolls as their pods travel across the water. Blue whales and humpbacks make their yearly migration from north to south and back again, keeping the rhythm of their internal calling.

Here, at the bottom of the world, icebergs larger than cruise ships and perfectly untouched glaciers freeze and thaw and freeze again — at just the right time to provide the precise water conditions needed for wildlife to survive. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth went on long before I arrived — long before whalers, Sir Ernest Shackleton or anyone knew the Antarctic existed.

This place bears witness to the wonder and creativity of God. It is pure, unspoiled creation that shows me we were made for God’s pleasure. And I too see that it is good.

KATE HARTMAN is a travel agent in Oklahoma City, where she and her family worship with the Memorial Road Church of Christ.

Filed under: In the Word Opinion Top Stories Antarctica

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