:: Article


By Harry Cockburn.

Antarctica had been melting for a while.

But what no-one realised was the entire continent had been held in place at the South Pole for millennia by all the ice.

Once the enormous Ross ice shelf had finally disintegrated, the sea ice had all dispersed and the last glacial meltwaters had become literal drops in the ocean, the continent was suddenly unshackled, and so it glided away and crashed into South Africa.

Pretoria and Johannesburg were far enough from the coast to survive the initial impact of the colliding continents, but Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban were subducted beneath the towering wall of rock which was travelling at 30 knots and had considerable momentum when it struck.

All the people, plants, and animals were smashed to death and the cities were consumed by fountains of magma which spurted out of fresh gaping chasms.

The bottom half of Africa broke out in a hot rash of volcanoes which to the astronauts in the International Space Station looked like fierce acne on the face of the Earth.

Then Antarctica rebounded and began to drift towards Indonesia.

Indonesia, being made mostly of islands, proved to be no barrier to the escaped continent, which bulldozed its way over the nation and into the Pacific ocean, snapping Malaysia off the bottom of Thailand like a twig.

The Philippines were squashed onto the floor of the ocean — gone forever — and as Antarctica sailed through the gap between Vietnam and Australia, it clipped the spiky tip of Northern Queensland ripping that off and leaving it at a strange new angle in the Coral Sea.

Five billion people died – most of them in a horrible panic and wracked by anger and frustration.

It was at this point the remaining countries finally decided to act on climate change. Antarctica was on course to hit Mexico and California, which couldn’t be allowed.

But first a lot of money had to be spent putting Antarctica back in the right place and tying it down to the seabed.

After a few centuries of no emissions and a large reforestation programme, the ice returned and Antarctica was once again a freezing southern wasteland, which was bad news for most of the animals it had picked up on its unauthorised journey.

Astonishingly, some of them adapted to deal with the conditions, and to scientists’ delight, several herds of elephants which had climbed aboard during the African leg of the trip eventually evolved into a modern strain of bad-tempered woolly mammoths.

Enormous white giraffes and powerful ice-dwelling gorillas which fed on penguins and seals also emerged.

Though many countries in Africa were severely damaged, and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were gone, the remaining world governments agreed it could have been a lot worse, and of course, there was still Brexit to sort out.



Harry Cockburn is an environment reporter and opinion writer at The Independent. His journalism has also appeared in The Guardian and The New Statesman. He lives in Hastings.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, December 14th, 2019.