This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008

Friday, December 29, 2006


Otherwise known as bonxies are scarily large, and very aggressive when their nests are threatened, as we discovered when we headed up to the high point of Anchorage Island.
At this point the birds dive bombed us in earnest. At first there would be the swoop of wings just above the head, then they got bolder and we got whacked hard with their wings, and one point I was literally slapped across the face. Birds would come in low, aim at the head, bank and rise and come in again; several at a time and making a yowling noise like a dog.
In Scotland they tie a stick up above their heads and the birds go for that. A good idea because what we experienced was straight out of Hitchcock's 'The Birds'!

However it has to be said that a wing is a soft thing and it would have been worse to have been raked with beaks or feet. We survived and headed back to the boat with the prized shrimps. Then back across the bay for lunch. Minke whales were spotted off the peer not long after we landed.


Fur seal

I am just considering what I might do today when I bump into Tim on the stairs. He asks me if I want to come out with him to Anchorage island - if so be ready to go in 10 minutes.

I grab cameras and some warm clothes and head for the boat hut where we don full immersion suits and life jackets - both a struggle to put on in a hurry. then we climb down into the inflatable boat and 4 of us are off at speed across the bay, dodging bergs - referred to as growlers, as that is what it sounds like if you hit even a small piece of ice. We land next to a bay packed with 30 or so elephant seals, who grunt and snort, but otherwise ignore us. Tim and I land and we head up the hill with white plastic tubs, to his fresh water ponds where he hopes to replenish his supply of shrimps.

Unfortunately the ponds are situated on the rocky spine of the island where several hundred pairs of Skuas are nesting. For the first hour the Skuas content themselves with half hearted attempts to dive bomb us. Tim collects Shrimps, I make a rock cairn, which I photograph and dismantle. The Skuas watch and cackle. They are very large birds with a long hooked beak.


I spend the morning in the lab, looking at what the marine Biologists are working on. All the science here is giving us a clearer picture of climate change and its effects. The Marine ecosystem of the Antarctic is highly specialised - adapted to the low temperatures of the sea. all the organisms found here under water are highly susceptible to changes in temperature in the sea water. a rise of one or two degrees and most will perish

There is a minute form of freshwater shrimp found in the melt pools of the islands near here, it is thought that they got there on the feet of birds. Like desert organisms which can be revived when water appears, these shrimps, appear again each year after the ice melts. Scientist are trying to determine just how they do this.

The wind has changed direction and at last the pack ice is being blown out of the bay, so diving and boat travel can begin. We gather on the peer to scout for Orcas or Leopard seals, which would make diving very dangerous, and when the all clear is given I watch Jim doing his first practice dive off the peer. Later after lunch a pod of 7 Orcas are spotted in the bay, which puts paid to more diving, but the boats get within 30 metres of them. By this time I am walking around the point, making ice cairns, and an Orca surfaces 100 metres from the shore.

Skiing after dinner at 10.00 pm.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


We live here in an oil heated cocoon where we can only engage with the astonishing beauty of our surroundings with a lot of expensive back up. So although the Antarctic is all around us it seems you can never quite touch it. That is why until recently man has never lived here, because you cannot live in such harsh surroundings without an industrial backup. There have been some, like Shackleton who have been forced to survive off the land for a year but they were lucky to survive so long.

For me the highlight of Christmas was 'the Queens Speech', delivered by our French chef Cyril, bedecked in a string of false pearls and delivered in a strong French accent which ever so subtly mocked this long standing British tradition!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Summer Solstice

21st December

The moment the weather cleared, 22nd December

As the sun circles the sky and there is little differentiation between night and day, time becomes cyclical. Today is the longest day, which means that the sun, at this time of the year, will be at its highest point in the sky at midnight. I am interested in this circular time; it changes body rhythms and have decided to make two films of the triangular black Mountain across the bay, and the big tabular berg over the 24 hours of the Solstice.

In practice I chose a site near the south point which has 180 degree views. The berg is on the move North, and I have no idea how far it will move in 24 hours. By the following morning it will in fact have moved about two miles away.

I will have to film each view for two and a half minutes every hour. I have two tripods set up and two 60 minute cassettes for the camera which I change each time I move to the other tripod. I keep a spare battery in my pocket to keep it warm and extend its life. This wont be a time lapse as it has to be done by hand in the open and the berg is not static.

I trudge up the hill, 20 or so times, sometimes staying up for two or three hours. At the most I get 35 minutes to grab a cup of tea and a rest before I set out again; a wearing process. There is no wind and the cloud is dense, sometimes black, and at times almost down to the waterline. Mountains fade into the gloom, and the berg as it moves North, is often hardly distinguishable.

It is however utterly peaceful. Wilson's Petrels quarter the sky, and the tern colony below keeps up a constant racket. There are a pair of bonxies who keep me company throughout the night. The water has warmed considerably so the bergs are melting and no longer grate on the sea bed. There is only the sound of constantly moving ice mush, the screech of terns and the sharp crack of splitting bergs, interspersed with the distant raw of avalanches on the peninsular. As midnight approaches the gloom intensifies, accentuating the extraordinary blues and turquoise in the old ice of the bergs. I pass two Adelie penguins fast asleep on the snow.

For 23 hours the landscape is grey and white. A soft, whispering silence pervades everything. Around 8.00 am the sky begins to clear and, in the last 5 minutes of each cassette, in the last of the 24 hours, the sun touches and illuminates both mountain and iceberg.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ice in the bay

This morning all our friends from the JCR science cruise are headed home for Christmas on the newly restored Dash 7.

The light here changes all the time as the sun circles the sky in a dipping ellipse, and as storm clouds gather over the mountains. When we first got here there was a big tabular berg in the South bay where it had been grounded all winter. As the day wore on it began to move slowly out to sea. On Sunday it was on the horizon, barely visible. On Monday it had gone.
Today Tuesday, the wind has changed direction and it is heading back to us, gleaming in the evening sunlight.
It has always been my intention to film a day in the life of an iceberg, following a berg in all it's subtle changes in colour and visibility. From white sky to black, faintly ethereal to gleaming white. It looks like I will have to follow it in space as well as time.

camping out and training on ice

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday 16th, On the glacier above the base

On the glacier above the base


A Berg in the South bay
Approaching the landing
Our home for the next 6 weeks