The word “desert” conjures a certain image in most peoples’ minds. Rolling dunes of sand, a hot sun, some scrubby foliage, and maybe the occasional oasis are the images we predominantly associate with deserts. As you may or may not have known, however, the two largest deserts in the world are polar: the Antarctic Polar Desert covers about 5.5 million square miles, while the Arctic Polar Desert covers 5.4 million.
Of the two regions, Antarctica — a massive landmass larger than both Europe and the United States (individually, not combined) — is perhaps the more fascinating. Virtually all of the flora and fauna that inhabit Antarctica reside around the coastline. It makes sense: while the surrounding water temperature might hover around freezing, it provides a more stable (and often warmer) environment than the barren inland region of the continent.
Being within a polar circle, Antarctica experiences perpetual daylight in the summer and endless nighttime in the winter. Despite the midnight sun, summer temperatures don’t often rise above freezing on the coast — inland, they seldom rise above 0 °F. Temperatures during the winter frequently sit as low as -80 °F, often touching -100 °F.
With that in mind, it makes sense that life is virtually nonexistent near the South Pole. Animals (beside the occasional lost seabird) are never found, given that they have nothing to eat. Bacteria are the only thing found in the South Pole surface snow. I specify “surface snow” because there are a number of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. The largest of these is Lake Vostok, located directly beneath Russia’s Vostok Research Station. It’s over 13,000 feet below the surface — essentially an entire Tahoma (Mt. Rainier).
It’s thought that Lake Vostok is home to thousands of unique species of bacteria, crustaceans, and perhaps even fish. Preliminary sampling showed evidence of life, though there’s controversy as to whether the samples were contaminated. Another Antarctic lake, Lake Whillans, has proven evidence of bacteria that rely on ammonia and methane, as well as fish that survive using antifreeze-like proteins. Woah.
Despite the apparent lack of habitability, humans have insisted on establishing permanent bases on Antarctica. There are presently 82 permanent or semi-permanent research stations on the mainland, the Southernmost of which is operated by the United States: Amundson-Scott South Pole Station.
The inhabitants of the station make existing in one of the most hostile environments imaginable seem fun. During the polar night, inhabitants have been known to join what’s known as the “300 club” — they’ll sit in a sauna heated to 200 °F, run nude into the -100 °F night, and then return to the sauna and a waiting glass of booze, having experienced a temperature change of 300 °F.
Insane? Perhaps. But with little else to do, humans do what they have to do to make it through the cold.
The Mariners’ offensive landscape was as barren as the inland Antarctic tonight, though some bad luck absolutely played a role in it. Padres starter Yu Darvish kept the Mariners off the board despite the Mariners making decent contact throughout the evening.
A pivotal 7th inning at bat saw Carlos Santana smash a 110 MPH ground ball directly at a waiting fielder. Santana, Adam Frazier, Cal Raleigh, and Eugenio Suárez each hit fly balls more than 350 feet, with Suárez doing it twice. All of them turned into outs, save one (and that was for a single).
On the other side, what we saw tonight from Logan Gilbert has been similar to what we’ve seen over the past couple of months: good stuff, questionable control, and results that haven’t quite been what you’d want. The five strikeouts looked nice, but Logan’s issues with command prevented him from going more than just five nnings.
At the end of the season, any team will have experienced several games like this. Games where the offense can’t seem to catch a break — or hasn’t earned a break. Games where the pitching is decent, but not good enough. Games that you look back on at the end of the season and point to as the ones that could have been the difference.
The only difference is that the Mariners have experienced far fewer of them than usual this season. This was the first time in nearly two months that the Mariners were shut out. As fans, we should be able to handle games like this. Most of us have been through the fire (or ice), and if we’re still here, it means we came out alright.
In years prior, we’d take the brutal conditions and run outside to play in the snow (perhaps not nude, but I’m not judging). It was the only way to have fun. I think we can handle a day of snow here and there. They play again in just 15 hours, after all.