A 360° glimpse at the inky black under sea ice at Cape Evans Antarctica as Waikato University diver Prof Ian Hawes descends.
An ongoing series of micro-videos produced for Antarctica New Zealand as a response to my 2016 residency at Scott Base, Antarctica as part of their Community Engagement Program.
“LX” is a limited edition set of sixty photographic prints commissioned by Antarctica New Zealand to mark the 60th Anniversary of Scott Base in Antarctica.
While working with an ice dive team at Cape Evans, Antarctica in October 2016 I visited the nearby historic hut, most associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, attempt for the South Pole.
I found stepping into that hut was deeply moving. Totally silent and dimly lit it stands preserved as if you are the first person to enter since Scott’s team deserted the place. So I decided to capture the feeling of visiting that moment rather than attempting to accurately document the site and artefacts, as many very good photographers have already done (notably the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton).
To recreate the mood, I lit the interior with torchlight and used my modern DSLR camera fitted with the lens from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera. The lens is very similar to one used by photographer Frank Hurley on Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which set out in 1914. It gives a wonderful soft quality to the images and adds a deeper connection to the ‘heroic’ era of Antarctic exploration.
For the commission I selected and crafted this diptych to form a stylised “LX” – the roman numeral for 60. An edition of 60 prints, to mark 60 years in the form of a roman 60. They are to be gifted to key staff and strategic partners. Antarctica New Zealand also commissioned a special edition consisting of two larger prints of the same image. One will be hung in their office in Christchurch and it’s pair to hang in Scott Base in Antarctica.
NIWA’s Drew Lohrer holds the safety line for ice diver Ian Hawkes as he works under the 2 metre thick sea-ice at Cape Evans in Antarctica. The divers cut a hole through the ice then position a modified shipping container over the hole to act as a dive base.
I was super impressed with these guys and their safety regime – the diver is in constant communication with the surface through a system of pulls on three rope Drew holds in a shaft of light through the containers only small window. It highlights these ‘lines of communication’ and that Ian was truely ‘in safe hands’
The wall of Scott’s Hutt at Cape Evans as seen in my headlamp.
A couple of days late sorry … Pressure cracks in the sea-ice near Cape Evans, Antarctica
A lone penguin makes its way through broken sea ice near Cape Royds in Antarctica. The wee fella showed such courage and determination as it worded it’s way over and around massive cracks to get to the colony on the cliffs behind where I took this shot.
In keeping with the historic theme created by my photo series “Into the light” featuring shots of the historic huts on Ross Island, this weeks FridayFoto is of one of our tents on the sea-ice at Cape Evans. After all this time the best tent design for Antartica is pretty much the same as what Scott and Shackleton over 100 years ago. Good design stands the test of time!
Shots of the historic huts in Antarctica – mostly from Scott’s hut and Cape Evans with a few from Shackleton’s Cape Royds thrown in. This is a working edit so will change over time.
Scott’s hut is the iconic base associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, famed attempt for the Geographic South Pole.
I wanted to capture the feeling of visiting the hut rather than concentrating on accurately documenting the site and artefacts, after all, many very good photographers have done this already (including the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton). I found it quite liberating to know I could take a totally different approach. See her video from TEDx at the bottom of this page.
When we entered the hut it was very dark with snow covering many of the windows. We had to wear head-torches which created an eerie pool of light in the inky dark, revealing a small bit at a time. To try and get the feeling of the experience I shot with combinations of head-torch and snooted flash lighting and using my homemade lens on a modern Nikon DSLR. The lens is made with the element from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera very similar to that used by the photographer from Shackleton’s expeditions, Frank Hurley.
This video of Jane Ussher speaking for the recent TEDx Scott Base gives a fantastic heartfelt context to the place, her work and then how my photos contrast to her work.
The Antarctic Heritage Trust has a very good website that goes into great detail about this and the other historic huts in Antarctica https://www.nzaht.org/explorer-bases/scotts-hut-cape-evans
Bubbles from the divers tanks flow like quicksilver on the underside of the frozen sea at Cape Evans, Antarctica. We were lucky enough to spend three days camping on the sea-ice with Dr Ian Hawkes and his fellow scientists as they dived below the two metre thick ice.
A diptych of images showing a detail of snow piled high on the windows of Scott’s historic hut at Cape Evans. When we visited in October the interior of the Hutt was very dark because the sun was still low and this snow on the windowed blocked it’s light. This created a very moody experience as we explored by the light of headlamps.
A massive iceberg trapped in the sea-ice near Cape Evans. We walked around this beast in the light of the midnight sun. I took photos for two hours solid that night in temperatures lower than -25°c until the camera finally gave up and refused to focus and the LCD screen faded to grey .. but my fingers were so cold I didn’t care.
Today I thought I would mark the departure of the TEDx peeps from Scott Base with a triptych of photos taken there. As we walked around the base in 18°c comfort, every window we past gave a different framed view of the Antarctic environment beyond. This made me think how much we depended on the insulated protection the base provided us, and from there I expended my thoughts to a wider relationship with nature which formed the basis of my “thin green line” conceptual framework.
But then, academic constructs aside … it just looked bloody cool.