Journey to the End of the Earth

About the Author

 
Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer of Welsh-Gujarati origin. She was born in Madras, India, in 1975. She studied Business Administration and Communications at Queens College, Charlotte, North Carolina and gained a master’s degree in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

She moved to London in 1999, becoming assistant to the advertising department of Harper's and Queen magazine. In 2001, she returned to India where she became a dancer with the choreographer Chandralekha. She also works as a freelance journalist, contributing to various newspapers

Her first book of poetry, Countries of the Body (2006), won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best First Collection) in 2006. Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was published in 2010, and was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award, and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Everything Begins Elsewhere (2012), a collection of poems, is her latest book.

Tishani divides her time between a village by the sea in Tamil Nadu, and elsewhere.

 

Introduction

The lesson revolves around the world’s most preserved place, Antarctica. Not many people have been there but out of the few that have, Tishani Doshi is one of them. A south Indian person who went on an expedition with a group of teenagers affiliated with ‘Students on Ice’ programme who takes young minds to different ends of the world. Thus, it gives an insight into how Antarctica is the place you should visit to have a glimpse of the past, present and the future in its realist form.

 

Summary-

 

The lesson begins with the author on a journey in a Russian vessel, Akademik Shokalskiy. It was headed towards Antarctica. We learn that the author has travelled about 100 hours in a car, aeroplane as well as the ship. The main objective of this trip is to learn everything in detail about Antarctica. Further, we learn about her two-week stay there and what all is present there. The place stores 90% of the earth’s total ice volumes with no trees, buildings, or anything. It has 24-hour austral summer light. Moreover, it is covered in silence.

This makes the author wonder about the time when India and Antarctica were the same landmass’s part. We learn about the existence of a southern supercontinent, Gondwana. It existed for six hundred and fifty million years ago.  We learn that the climate back then was much warmer and also sustained a huge variety of flora and fauna.

All this was before the arrival of human beings. Moreover, for 500 million years, Gondwana flourished. Thus, after the extinction of dinosaurs, the landmass separated into countries, as we know today. Moreover, we also learn about the reality of climate change. Similarly, the author believes that to study the impact closely, one must make a visit to Antarctica.

After that, we learn about Antarctica’s ecosystem and how it lacks biodiversity. Moreover, it is the place to observe if you wish to see what consequences a little action can bring about in the environment. If the ozone layer keeps depleting at the present rate, it will impact the lives of the inhabitants of the area like the sea-animals and birds. Moreover, it will also impact the global carbon cycle.

We learn about the contributors to climate change, like the burning of fossil fuels and more. All this is damaging the quality of Antarctica and this may cause immense danger to human life. Moreover, we also learn about it through examples of phytoplankton. Finally, the story ends with the author observing some seals sunbathing on ice. It makes her wonder whether this beauty will be reserved for the years to come, or will the future be catastrophic.

To sum up, Journey to End of the Earth summary, we learn in detail about climate change and how it is impacting our lives and of other living beings dangerously, it serves as a wakeup call to start working to make the planet a healthier place.

 

Notes:

  • The writer visited Antarctica, the coldest, the driest and windiest continent in the world, aboard the Russian research vessel, Akademik Shokalskiy.

  • The journey, beginning at Chennai, passed through many areas, geographical, legal, ecological, and temporal.

  • The writer’s first reaction to the continent was of relief, followed by wonder at its vastness, seclusion, and geological history.

Part of History

  • Before human evolution, Antarctica was part of a huge tropical landmass called the Gondwana land, which flourished 500 million years ago.

  • Biological (flora and fauna), geological (changing continents) and geographical (climatic)changes occurred, and Antarctica separated and moved away evolving into what it is today.

  • A visit to Antarctica gave the writer a deeper understanding of fold mountains, the earth’s history, ecology, and environment.

  • The writer felt unsettled in two weeks’ time not only because she came from a much hotter place, but also because all features of human civilization were absent from an already desolate landscape.

  • The long summers, the silence is broken occasionally by cracking ice sheets and avalanches, the blue whales, and icebergs, all contribute to an ecological implication that the future for humans is not good.

Human Impact –

  • Humans, who are known to have existed for a mere 12000 years, have caused tremendous impact, and played havoc with nature.

  • Population explosion, putting a strain on available resources, carbon emissions, fossil fuels and global warming have all resulted in climatic and ecological imbalances that have also affected Antarctica.

  • Antarctica, though unpopulated, has been affected and there are concerns for its half a million-year-old carbon records trapped under its ice sheets.

  • The ‘Students on Ice’ programme, an initiative of Canadian adventure educator, Geoff Green takes students on expeditions to Antarctica, to create awareness in them, the future policymakers.

  • The stark proof of global warming and environmental threats helps students attain an understanding of ecosystems and biodiversity of our planet.

  • An amazing display of the food chain of the Southern Ocean helps in the understanding that further depletion of the ozone layer, will set off a chain reaction that will affect the global carbon cycle.

  • The simple truth is, take care of the small things and the bigger ones will automatically be taken care of.

  

Textual Question-answer

Question 1: How do geological phenomena help us to know about the history of humankind?

Answer: The geological trend of separating various continents and bodies of water from one compact landmass tells us about the age of the human race on earth. There was no human race on earth six hundred and fifty million years ago because the climate was not favourable. About the time the dinosaurs were wiped out, the Mammals started to live, and the human race began to flourish on earth after the division of landmass.

 

Question 2: What are the indications for the future of humankind?

Answer: Humanity's future can be endangered if carbon dioxide emissions and other poisonous gasses continue in the same way. Those gasses deplete the ozone layer and allow the sun's ultra-violet rays to penetrate the atmosphere of the earth. This causes the earth's temperature to increase and contributes to the phenomenon known as global warming. Increased temperature can melt the Antarctic ice and cause other environmental problems, thereby jeopardizing the human future.

 

Question 3: ‘The world’s geological history is trapped in Antarctica.’ How is the study of this region useful to us?

Answer: The research of this Antarctic region gives us insight into the geological past of the planet. It gives an idea of how the world was before dividing into continents and nations. It shows how minor climate changes can change the shape of the region. It gives the reason how the earth's climatic conditions were previously unfavourable for life, and how gradually increasing temperature made the earth a place for sustaining life. All secrets are preserved in the ice layers in the form of carbon records which are half a million years old.

 

Question 4: What are Geoff Green’s reasons for including high school students in the Students on Ice expedition?

Answer: Geoff Green brought students from high school to one end of the planet to give them the opportunity to gain appreciation and compassion for the environment. He decided to make potential policymakers realize how hard it must have been for the planet to support life by increasing its temperature. He needed them to realize that any intrusion in nature could cause dramatic mishaps in the future when the students see the ice shelves melting and falling, they could predict the kinds of environmental disorders ahead of them.

 

Question 5: ‘Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.’ What is the relevance of this statement in the context of the Antarctic environment?

Answer: This statement is of great relevance to the Antarctic environment. A minor environmental change may give rise to dramatic developments. Small biodiversity of Antarctica. In this context, the example of small grass named phytoplankton can be studied. These microscopic grasses undergo the photosynthesis process and function as food for numbers of sea birds and animals. The author says that if the ozone layer is further depleted it will affect the phytoplankton and the globe's carbon cycle. The whole cycle will jeopardize the life of all aquatic birds and animals. Operably, the larger animals and birds will fall alone in the place. So, if we take care that processes carried over by these small grasses are carried out properly, the bigger animals and birds will fall into the place on their own.

 

Question 6: Why is Antarctica the place to go to, to understand the earth’s present, past, and future?

Answer: Antarctica gives us an idea of how the earth would have been like millions of years ago and how it divided into different masses of earth. The melting and colliding ice caps also give us a glimpse of how our future will be if we start interfering with nature 's working. In addition, Antarctica holds carbon records of half a million years old in the depths of its ice, which are useful in understanding the earth's past, present, and future. Antarctica is, therefore, the place where our past is revealed, our present is shown, and our future is visualized.

 

Short Questions and Answers

Question 1. When did the author start her journey to Antarctica and what had she to pass through?
Answer: The author started her journey 13.09 degrees north of the Equator in Madras—she was on board a Russian research vessel—the Akademik Shokalskiy. She had to pass through nine time zones, six checkpoints, three bodies of water and at least as many ecospheres. After travelling over hundred hours in combination of a car, an aeroplane, and a ship, she reached Antarctica.

Question 2. What emotions did the author experience when she reached Antarctica at last?
Answer: The author finally set foot on the Antarctica continent after travelling over 100 hours in combination of car, aeroplane, and ship. Her first emotion on seeing the vast expansive white landscape and the blue horizon was of relief. She experienced the emotion of wonder at its immensity and isolation and its strange relationship with India.

Question 3. How would you describe Gondwana?
Answer: Gondwana was a giant amalgamated southern supercontinent, centering around present-day Antarctica. Humans had not arrived on the global scene. The climate was much warmer. There was a huge variety of flora and fauna. Gondwana thrived for 500 million years. When the age of the mammals got underway, the landmass was forced to separate into countries. Antarctica separated from the whole landmass shaping the globe as we know it today.

Question 4. What is that thing that can happen in a million years and would be mind-boggling?
Answer: The author says that in a million-year India may push northwards, jamming against Asia. It will buckle its crust and form the Himalayas – South America may drift off to join North America. The Drake Passage may open up to create a cold circumpolar current. Antarctica may remain frigid, desolate and at the bottom of the world.

Question 5. In what respect, Tishani Doshi’s encounter with Antarctica is a chilling prospect?
Answer: The author remained there for two weeks. For a sun worshipper South Indian, being face to face with ninety per cent of earth’s total ice volume was a mind-boggling and chilling prospect. It was also a chilling experience for circulatory and metabolic functions and for imagination. It is like walking into a giant ping-pong ball with no human markers such as trees, billboards, and buildings.

Question 6. What is the visual experience in Antarctica?
Answer: In Antarctica, the visual scale ranges from the microscopic to the mighty midgets and mites to blue whales and icebergs as big as countries. The writer refers to it as walking into a giant ping-pong ball devoid of any human markers, without trees, billboards, buildings. Days go on in 24 hours austral summer light. A ubiquitous silence interrupted only by an occasional avalanche or calving ice sheet consecrates the place.

Question 7.How, according to the author, has mankind etched its dominance over nature?
Answer: According to the author, though civilizations have been around for barely a few seconds on the geological clock, yet they have created a ruckus by their various activities like exploiting the limited resources and careless burning of fossil fuels. In the short span of existence on the earth, they have already created a blanket of carbon dioxide and increased the average global temperature.

Question 8. How has Antarctica sustained itself and managed to remain pristine?
Answer: Antarctica, on account of being the coldest, windiest, and driest continent in the world, has never sustained a human population and has thus managed to remain pristine. This has prevented man from being able to create ruckus in this part of the world by his thoughtless exploitation of the natural resources.

Question 9. How is global temperature increasing? What are the immediate fears due to it?
Answer: Global temperature is increasing due to the increasing burning of fossil fuels. It has now created a blanket of carbon dioxide around the world. This has given birth to questions like: Will the West Antarctica ice sheet melt entirely? Will the Gulf Stream Ocean current be disrupted? Will it be the end of the world as we know of? It may be. It may not be.

Question 10. How is Antarctica a crucial element in the debate of climate change?
Answer: Antarctica is a crucial element not because it has no human population but because it holds in its ice cores half a million-year-old carbon records. They are trapped in its layers of. ice. It will open up areas of knowledge about the past, present and future of the earth.

Question 11. What are the reasons for the success of the Students on Ice programme?
Answer: Sitting distant in the comfort zone of our houses, any talk about global warming looks so unreal and one can be unconcerned. But the visible experience of seeing glaciers retreating, ice caps melting and ice shelves collapsing makes one understand and realize what global warming is all about. The indications for the future of humankind become clear when one actually witnesses the geological phenomena.

Question 12. The author says that her Antarctica experience was full of such epiphanies. What was that best epiphany that occurred there?
Answer: The Akademik Shokalskiy got wedged into a thick white sheet of ice. The captain decided to turn around and asked the passengers to walk on the ocean. Underneath their feet they saw 180 metres of living, breathing salt water. Crab eater seals were stretching and sunning themselves on ice floes much like stray dogs under a banyan tree. It was a great epiphany, a revelation.

Question 13. What is that beauty of balance that a trip to Antarctica unfolded to the author?
Answer: The author was wonderstruck by the beauty of balance in play on our planet. Travelling across nine time zones, three bodies of water and as many ecospheres was an experience that unfolded a wide range of climate, geographical features, and flora and fauna. It was also a visible experience of the varied geographical phenomena.

Question 14.Why does the author conclude the chapter by saying that a lot can happen in a million years, but what a difference a day makes?
Answer: The author concludes the chapter by saying that much more can really happen in a million years as it happened in the case of Antarctica. But in this long period, changes even in a day make a great difference because global climate is changing. It is posing a threat to the beauty of balance on the earth.

Question 15. What are phytoplankton? What is their importance?
Answer: Phytoplankton, the grasses of the sea, are single-celled organisms living in the Southern Ocean. They nourish and sustain the entire ocean’s food chin, being first link in the food chain of ocean. Using sun’s energy, they assimilate carbon and synthesize organic compounds.
The diminishing number of these organisms due to the depletion of ozone layers affects other organisms of the ocean, finally leading to the extinction of life on earth.

Question 16. Why does the author feel that the prognosis for the human beings is not healthy?
Answer: The world is battling an ever-increasing population, leading to burning of fossil fuels. This has created a blanket of carbon dioxide around the world thereby increasing global temperatures. All this is hazardous and life threatening for all flora and fauna. Hence the future of mankind in fact, all life on earth, is bleak. So, the author is correct in saying that the prognosis for man is not encouraging and healthy.

Question 17. Why is it necessary to remain fully equipped while walking on ice?
Answer: While walking on ice, the troupe was fully kitted out in Gore-Tex (type of spiked boots that help in walking on ice) and glares. The spiked boots protect them from falling down on ice which might result in injury and the glares protect the eyes because the sunglasses can injure their eyes, particularly the retina.

Question 18. Do you think that programmes like the Students on Ice do more harm than good? Support your answer.
Answer: I personally feel that such trips do more harm than good. We have ruined the earth as much as we could and as wide as we could go, because Antarctica was far away and extremely cold. But now we have so many reasons to go to this pristine continent. Let us not encourage such trips. After all, what else do we have to learn about the earth than the fact that we have been running a business, not a service. Please spare Antarctica.

Student on Ice is an educational journey to Antarctica. It took high school students to Antarctica where they understood the seriousness of the threat that the end of the earth is quite near. By visiting Antarctica, they would act their bit to save the planet from further deterioration. The educational youth of today is the hope for the earth and if they are more informed and more aware of the weakening strength of the earth, they will be able to steer the government machinery of their countries as they grow up.

Question 19.Does the study of the lesson give you a feeling that man is his own great enemy?
Answer: In his 12000-year-long stint on the earth so far man has caused untold harm to the planet, its environment and biodiversity. His activities in the name of development have spelt doom for the flora and fauna and his own existence is in danger. Man is to blame for all the havoc and ruckus created on earth. Thus, it is quite right that man is his own great enemy.

Long Questions and Answers

Question 1. What is the significance of the title ‘Journey to the End of the Earth’?
Answer: The title ‘Journey to the End of the Earth’, has more than one meaning. It describes an educational journey to Antarctica undertaken by a group of high school students. To learn more about the real impact of global warming and future of the earth 52 students went to the coldest, driest, windiest continent in the world called Antarctica in Russian research vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy.

The author calls it a journey to the end of the earth because it began 13:09 degrees North of Equator in Madras, involved crossing nine time zones, six checkpoints, three oceans and as many ecospheres. She travelled over 100 hours in combination of a car, an aeroplane, and a ship. The journey being to the extreme south of the earth, was really towards the end of it. Another meaning of this title is more significant as the warnings that Antarctica gives are shocking and much concerning the humanity and the millions of other species on the earth. The changes taking place in Antarctica are pointing a warning finger at the existence of the earth; the earth is journeying to its end.

Question 2. The author says, ‘It was nothing short of a revelation: everything does connect. ‘What does it mean?
Answer: Antarctica is a perfect place to study how little changes in the environment can have big repercussions as far as Antarctica is concerned. Various human activities like exploiting the limited resources and careless burning of fossil fuel have already created a blanket of carbon dioxide, increased the average global temperatures and caused the retreating of glaciers, melting of ice caps and collapse of ice shelves as far as Antarctica. Global warming does not only change the geographical features, but also cause depletion in the ozone layer which will affect the activities of the phytoplankton, the tall grasses which support the lives of marine animals and birds of the region. Hence, the author says everything does connect and all human activities are interlinked with the geological phenomena, whatever be the geological distance.

Question 3. By whom and with what objective was Students on Ice programme started? How far has it achieved its goals?
Answer: The Students on Ice programme was started by Canadian Geoff Green. He felt students are the future generation of policymakers. They should be provided an opportunity to have this lifechanging experience at a young age in order to foster a new understanding and respect for our planet. It would help them to absorb, learn and, more importantly, act for the benefit of the planet.

Geoff Green was tired of taking celebrities and retired rich curiosity seekers who could only give back in a limited way. It means Geoff wanted something in return from his passengers to solve the problems relating to climate changes due to environmental pollution. It is difficult to imagine or be affected by the polar ice caps melting while sitting in our living rooms and so this visible life changing experience is important. Hence, this programme made the children learn that to save big things, small. things must be cared for.

Question 4. What makes Antarctica an ideal subject of study?
Answer: Antarctica is the only place in the world which has never sustained a human population. It thus remains relatively pristine in this respect. But, more importantly, it holds in its ice core, half a million- year-old carbon records trapped in its layers of life. Antarctica has a simple ecosystem and lack of biodiversity. It is, therefore, a perfect place to study how little changes in the environment can have big repercussions. Visiting Antarctica means knowing where we have come from and where we could possibly be heading. This place holds the key to know the geological evolution and it shall reveal the earth’s past, present and future.

Question 5. The author states that her Antarctic experience was full of epiphanies, but the best occurred just short of the Antarctic Circle of 65-55 degrees south? Explain.
Answer: Epiphanies is a Christian festival that celebrates the revelation or enlightenment. Here epiphanies are used metaphorically to suggest moments when the author suddenly becomes conscious of something that is very important to her.

The author experienced the rare of the rarest experiences there in Antarctica both in relation to beauty, wonder, and geological phenomena. Such masterly geological epiphany was experienced by her when the Akademik Shokalskiy got wedged into a thick white stretch of ice between the peninsula and Tadpole Island. The captain decided to turn around and asked the passengers to walk on the ocean. They kitted out in Gore-Tex and glares, walking on a white sheet of ice. Underneath their feet was a metre-thick ice pack. And underneath that, 180 metres of living breathing, saltwater lay before them. In the periphery, crabeater seals were stretching and sunning themselves on ice floes. They were doing so like stray clogs will do under the shade of a banyan tree. It was nothing short of revelation. The author saw in it that everything does indeed connect. This really proved to be the most wonderful experience of all experiences of Antarctica.

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