In the past few months there has hardly been a pause between the extraordinary projects and places we have experienced. And it is only now that we have a chance to pause and reflect on them.
While In Antarctica in December Philippa and I travelled over the sea ice from Scott Base to Cape Evans where we were left alone to work in the wilderness below the volcano Mt Erebus.
We slept and cooked in a small unlined survival hut half a mile from and out of sight of the restored historic hut that Scott’s team tragically failed to return to after their epic journey to the South Pole 100 years ago.
After 10 years of dedicated conservation work on thousands of historical objects that were left behind in the hut, the team of highly qualified conservators led by Lizzie Meek have finally completed their project. www.nzaht.org
During her last weeks at Cape Evans, Lizzie was kind enough to show us through the hut and leave us alone to absorb its unique atmosphere and character. It’s hard to believe what these men achieved with such minimal protection from the Antarctic conditions.
Leaving the dark interior of the hut, the stark white-on-white ice scape enveloped us as no other landscape can – all the way to the endless horizon, vast everchanging but immensely geologically old ice.
At the edge of the sea ice, on the black volcanic beach where Scott’s ship had once been anchored, we set to work making environmental sculptures inspired by this unique place.
Giant Icebergs frozen into the sea ice in the bay were a backdrop to our work and Weddell seals lay about on the ice surface. Skuas divebombed us if we came too close and a lone emperor penguin waddled through the scene, unconcerned by our presence.
We left all too soon to return to Scott Base and the controlled, safe, civilised world of central heating, catered meals and soft beds. All thanks to the remarkable systems and management of Antarctica New Zealand and the Scott Base staff.
New Year – Resolution
Only weeks later, in January, we were off on another adventure. This time to Dusky Sound, Fiordland with a group of artists on a “residency” organised by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC).
Dusky Sound is a focus of a world class conservation programme to eradicate introduced pest and predator species from sanctuary islands in the sounds.
The boat trip proved very exciting with five metre swells as we rounded the heads and made our way through the open sea from Doubtful to Dusky Sound. The bush covered mountains, Islands, waterfalls and ocean here are as primal as in Captain Cook’s day.
Most of the other artists were housed for a week on the boat or the DoC centre on Anchor Island, but Philippa and I had opted to be “marooned” on Resolution Island where we had a small well equipped research and trappers hut to ourselves. Only metres from the high tide line this hut became a perfect base for five days making environmental sculptures.
We are currently discussing a collaboration with scientists in relation to the ecological and climate links between New Zealand and Antarctica This will be the basis of a project that explores these deep connections over geological time.