Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Science On Ice
A photographer chronicles scientific expeditions in the polar regions
"It's a dynamic place that changes every day," says Linder. "It's like watching the Grand Canyon being formed only in accelerated time because water is cutting through the ice so much faster than it does through rock. Everything you photograph is water, either liquid or frozen."
And everywhere he stepped was water, either liquid or frozen. Linder recalls camping on the ice sheet during a scientific expedition in an area pockmarked with water-filled holes several feet deep. These "cryoconite holes" form when dust containing soot settles onto a glacier, absorbs the sun's heat and melts the ice underneath. One night it snowed, and Linder awoke to a seemingly smooth white surface on the glacier, only to plunge waist-deep into one of the frigid camouflaged holes upon leaving his tent. It has been these kinds of moments that have helped him appreciate what it takes for scientists to collect data in such difficult working conditions.
Another moment was camping on Ross Island at Cape Crozier, one of the windiest and harshest places in Antarctica. Linder and the penguin researchers he photographed weathered storms that shredded the fabric on their tents and bent the poles that held them in place. During the storms, sleep was impossible, and just walking was a struggle. Conducting research or making photographs is difficult to imagine when survival takes top priority.
He likens the time he spent with researchers among the 500,000 Adélie penguins at Cape Crozier to being in a city surrounded by small inhabitants. A constant dull roar from all of the birds' vocalizations filled the air, and a "fishy barnyard" odor created a heightened sensory experience.
"On Antarctica's Ross Island, penguins have no fear of people and are extremely curious," he says. "Photographically, it's overwhelming because there's so much going on. It's both a photographer's dream and a nightmare because you feel like you're missing opportunities everywhere."
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