Antarctic extremes

December 22, 2014

This month Antarctic New Zealand’s Scott Base became our home for 12 days. We learned the ropes – the systems for survival, communication and travel in the coldest wildest windiest place on earth and after two days of field training which included sleeping in a polar tent and cooking in the open sheltered by a wall we built with sawn snow blocks, we were considered safe to be let out onto the sea ice alone to begin work on the 10th Fine Line sculpture._DSC3972 It is significant to us to link our work with the scientific climate research taking place in Antarctica and so we planned to incorporate ice sample cores into the sculpture. A scientific team from Otago University who were drilling sea ice core samples  two weeks before had kindly left us a pile of spare ice cores. _DSC4256   Once we had settled on a location on the sea ice near the ice pressure ridges we packed two sledges with the ice cores, equipment, cameras and a radio to begin our sculpture making project. Unusually for us we began by accurately measuring and drilling holes in the ice to install ice cores at an angle.  _DSC4286 Cutting them to the correct height was tricky and the weather was grey. When the wind picks up the cloud clears from Mt Erebus to show its volcanic plume of vapour.  Weddell seals emerge from the ocean through the cracks and lie obliviously on the ice, resting.  With no sunset we worked on into the night hoping to finish the sculpture for photographing in good morning light. The sculpture looked best with backlighting though the sun was extremely bright – there is no soft morning light at this time of year. I shot it with a polarising filter to increase contrast.IMG_1526 - Version 2 These light conditions are extreme for our work. The scientific work taking place year after year to inform science of likely scenarios for the future climate in this hostile and forbidding environment is also extreme. We are grateful to Antarctica New Zealand for selecting us to visit Antarctica which has enabled us to make the 10th Fine Line Project sculpture 20 years after we began. There is one more sculpture to make (Pacific Islands) before we return to Mt Ngauruhoe to make the last one where we began, thus completing the line round Earth to express the interconnectedness of all natural systems and the extreme ecological risk we face if we do not  transform our ways to become compatible with them.