The idea that there was a probable but unknown continent in the south originated with Aristotle. He reasoned that the known continents of the globe north of this area made the world somewhat top-heavy, and that a land in the south should exist to balance everything out. Aristotle referred to this land as Terra Australis, or “land of the South.” Nearly 2,000 years later, during the Age of Discovery in Europe and across the world, explorers and cartographers still believed that Aristotle was right about this missing land mass. They referred to it as Terra Australis Incognita, or “unknown land of the South.” Matthew Flinders, the first to discover that Australia was a continent, named his new land Australia – believing he had found the most southern land there would ever be. It was only later during the discovery and exploration of Antarctica that the fabled land was finally proven to exist.
The simple phrase Terra Incognita was a phrase that grew out of cartography to refer to any suspected but unmapped region of the globe. It was, simply, a mysterious land – a hidden land.
Today, terra incognita can refer to any area of research that is still in need of exploration and understanding. We might agree together that “S” is definitely terra incognita.
With this floating in the back of our minds, let’s start with the following quote from page 213 in “S,” where Jen draws a rectangle around the word man-hauling and she and Eric converse in the margins.
He has the beaten look of one of those failed polar explorers, man-hauling his way toward death or something worse.
That’s a great term. In a terrible way, I mean. It sounds miserable.
THE BRITISH EXPLORERS WERE INTO THAT – THE NOBILITY OF SUFFERING.
Seems like you are, too.
THE NOBILITY ISN’T IN THE SUFFERING. IT’S IN THE DISCOVERY.
Those dead British guys probably told themselves pretty much the same thing.
The sentence in Ship of Theseus and the discussion between Eric and Jen refers to man-hauling in general, and more specifically how it likely led to the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and four companions on the return trip of the Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole.
Just one flip of the page back, on p210, we see FXC leave us a footnote that reads…
Here again, Straka may have drawn material from the spurious Tortugan Journals of the pirate Covarrubias. According to the journals (which, I must point out again, are obvious fakes), the French barque Belette struck a reef and sank near Martinique in 1647, but was spotted again in 1683, risen like Lazarus and sailing briskly through the waters off the coast of Peru.
Let’s focus on the phrase risen like Lazarus. Mikhail Lazarev (Lazarev is Russian for Lazarus) “took part in the discovery of Antarctica” in 1820.
And this. Lines 359-365 of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland were admittedly inspired by Ernest Shackleton, a British explorer of Antarctica. Jen Heyward mentions studying The Wasteland in the margins, and we have already seen numerous connections between “S” and T.S. Eliot, well-presented by geekyzen.
And this. In the The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, exactly 19 men died.
The astute Clare Fish discovered the source for this ad. Here is the original…
The book in the original, Ill Met by Moonlight, was written by W. Stanley Moss, a British soldier in WWII. In 1958, he went to Antarctica “to report on the arrival of the first Antarctic crossing achieved by the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1957-8 led by Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary.”
And this. The magnetic North Pole and magnetic South Pole drift over time due to the Earth’s shifting outer core. The two poles are drifting twins.
And this. On p273, we see S. mention eating a miserable biscuit, which Jen circles and highlights. On p231 of Antarctic Adventure: Scott’s Northern Party, we see that often the explorers were limited to one “miserable biscuit per diem.”
And this. Torsten Ekstrom (one of the Straka candidates), according to the EOTVOS wheel site, held a close friendship with Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen’s exploration techniques for the North Pole heavily influenced subsequent Antarctic expeditions, including the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition (1949-1952) responsible for discovering and naming the Ekstrom Ice Shelf.
And this. The mysterious Arquimedes de Sobreiro, who is very connected to S. (see p404) seems to be, in part, a strong reference to Archimedes, the famous Greek inventor and mathematician, among other things. He is often noted for his advancements on using the lever. He is known to have once said…
Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth.
Virtually ever artwork depicting Archimedes’ attempting to fulfill his promise looks something like this…
…with the point of contact of the lever and earth being the South Pole.
And this. It is in the Winter City that S. stands in the very room where Sobreiro lived and left life behind in his descent to death.
And this. A view from the South Pole shows that everything connects. All longitudes converge here. The South Pole appears to be the center of all things, and all else can be found at a spoke on this wheel. It reminds us how to play The Glass Bead Game.
And this. the first footnote in the first chapter of Ship of Theseus reads…
A sense of spatial disorientation afflicts characters throughout Straka’s body of work — most notably in Coriolis, which features a character afflicted with a fictional ailment called “Eötvös Syndrome.” The illness causes his sense of disorientation to intensify as his travels take him closer to the equator.
If the sense of disorientation caused by the Eötvös Syndrome intensifies as you get closer to the equator, where would the disorientation affect you the least? The South Pole (or the North Pole, depending on your preference for polar bears or penguins). You would be most yourself at the poles.
And this: Clues in the Foreword that point to the first map of the world that definitively shows Antarctica as a single, final continent.
And finally, this. The place where man first set foot on the new continent is the Antarctica Peninsula…
The journey to Antarctica is a metaphor for the discovery of the Self – the Soul – otherwise known as Terra Australis Incognita – the unknown land of the south. The journey inward is as challenging as the journey southward. We must brave the waters of the unconscious mind until we reach the shore beyond to where our true selves await. We must descend into the orlop, the lowest deck of the ship, and remain there until we become part of the tradition. We must spend time in the Winter City until we discover more about who we really are. From this vantage point, we finally find the place to stand from which we can move the earth.
For we LOST fans, this may come as no surprise. “S” isn’t the first time that J.J. Abrams led us on a journey to the soul using this metaphor. If you remember what Hurley told us in The Shape of Things to Come…