A Place on the Ice: the stories, images, and experiences that make New Zealand's Antarctica
Thesis DisciplineAntarctic Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The polar landscapes have, for a long time, held the imaginations of people around the world. These extreme and remote environments have shaped the hearts and minds not only of people who have lived there, but also those who have only heard stories and seen pictures of these far off lands of ice and sky and snow. This dissertation examines the sense of place developed by New Zealanders towards Antarctica, across a spectrum of experiences with the continent, from seasonal workers and scientists, to people who have only ever seen it in books or advertisements. Taking a mainly phenomenological approach, the main objective of the research is to generate a theoretical base on what sense of place is made with and how it is created in extreme and remote environments like Antarctica. After examining 30 questionnaires and 54 interviews, the data indicate that there is no one New Zealand sense of Antarctica; rather, they are as manifold and complex as the individuals consulted. Regardless of the many differences across the various groups, a common thread was found of Antarctica as a place of hope. A hope based on scientific discovery and collaboration, on resource potential and conserving wild spaces. Findings also helped to develop a theoretical model, which builds on the existing works of Tuan (1977), Sack (1997), and Gustafson (2001). Three important theoretical aspects were identified through the analysis, including the ideas of personal connection, narrative emplotement, and one’s sense of identity. The theory contributes to the ongoing discussion of how people encounter and make sense of extreme and remote environments. Both the findings themselves and the theory behind them suggest that policy makers, communicators, and tourism operators be aware of their target audience, their cultural values and changing symbolism, in order to better communicate their intended message.