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.
Beware the crossed flags!
Scott Base Field trainer Mike Lundin and Mike Rowe check out the sea-ice ahead of our Hagglund vehicles. Regular routes are marked with lines or flags that have been scouted out. Hazards like hidden or active cracks are marked with crossed flags and the field trainers check them out before driving over them. Cracks are often only visible as faint changes in the texture of the snow (see below) … if you’re lucky! In white out conditions visibility can make them completely invisible. Before crossing dodgy cracks they drill holes to expire the thickness and shape of the ice.
Big ups to these guys for keeping us safe!
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
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.
Camping in the New Zealand summer … Antarctica style. After a three hour ride in the Hagglund we arrived at our campsite for the final part of our field survival training. This shot was taken about 11.30 at night and this is about as dark as it got. The tents are pretty much the same design Scott used during his fatal 1912 journey to the pole. In the background is the ever present Mt Erebus. On the left Warren is recording the sound of the flagpoles squeaking as the move in the snow.
To learn more bout the camping see my earlier video post.
The thin green line is a conceptual representation of our relationship with nature I have developed since visiting Antarctica. I explain it below:
Scott Base is a wonderful place. More than a mere shelter from the harsh environment of Antarctica, it has a special culture among it’s personnel, both ‘permanent’ and the transient scientists and others like myself and Warren.
Literally you can step from the friendly, pleasant 18° comfort of the base, through an industrial fridge door, into the potentially killer conditions outside.
This tiny separation between civilisation and wilderness, literally a thin green line because Scott Base is painted a fetching green colour (Chelsea Cucumber to be exact), really got me thinking about our broader relationship with nature.
Our Scott Base Hagglund makes it’s way to the field training campsite. These all-terrain vehicles are the work horses of Antarctica. We travelled across the sea-ice in them for hours at a time. It’s far to say that they are not exactly luxury travel but by Antarctica stands they are bloody brilliant transport 11 people (5 in the front and 6 in the back) with ease but I think the Swedish army squeezes in upwards of 16 pax! In a worst case scenario they can even float – a feature we fortunately didn’t need to test.
For some reason it seemed an appropriate pick for the last FridayFoto before Christmas … hang on! … That’s it!