South Georgia rises sheer and stark from the sea, a hundred-mile arc of dark Antarctic peaks, ice fields, and hanging glaciers. From the deck of a ship, the island makes a startling apparition, like the Himalaya just emerged from the Flood. For a polar outpost so solid and austere, covered half by permanent snow and ice and half by bare rock and tundralike vegetation, South Georgia is strangely chimerical. Its meanings are contrary and elusive. Its moods are mercurial, brightening one moment, darkening and spitting sleet the next, then brightening again. The island seems marked in some unusual way, simultaneously favored and cursed. Few spots on Earth are so full of ambiguity and paradox.