Arctic Assortment

A collection of my images from remote places are going to be on show in The Boiler Room at the Jam Factory in Oxford from mid-November.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to publish a blog post about each of the regions I've included in the exhibition where I’ll tell the stories behind a few of the images.

Sculpted Icebergs – Eastern Greenland

Eastern Greenland is prime iceberg spotting territory.  From the coastline of any of towns along the coast you can watch bergs on the horizon being carried south by the East Greenland current.

Sometimes these bergs will get pulled in closer to shore until they run aground.

This particular berg was in King Oscars Havn just outside the town of Tasiilaq.  Tasiilaq isn’t the easiest place to get to – I got there by flying from Reykjavik in Iceland to Kulusuk, and then getting a helicopter ride to Tasiilaq, in the summer the only other way to get there is by boat. After that if you want to go any further than the edge of town, walking is your only option.  I walked out of town onto a deserted headland where I could look down onto this grounded berg.  The scars and grooves on the berg show that it had rolled and calved many times as it melted on its journey south from northern Greenland.  This berg would have stayed put near Tasiilaq for a few days or weeks until it melted enough for it to either float on, or to roll again and unpin itself from the sea bed.

One of the delights of photographing icebergs is the knowledge that an image can never be repeated.  After just a few minutes the light was different, in a few hours the water changed and after a few days the berg would have been transformed out of all recognition.

Every iceberg image is unique.

Feeding Time – Polar Bears – Svalbard

A whale washed ashore in the Arctic is a feeding bonanza for polar bears – even an old carcass is still likely to have lots of meat on it.  This carcass, probably of a Fin Whale, in a remote bay at the northern end of Spitzbergen Island in Svalbard had already been ashore for over a year when I visited.  When it was fresh, bears had come from huge distances to eat their fill on the water’s edge.

By the time we turned up the bit of the skeleton above the waterline had been picked clean – but that meant that ‘Mum’ needed to drive deep into the water to tear off huge mouthfuls of meat to feed herself and her cub.

While feeding time was underway we were able to sit in a Zodiac just a few metres from the bears, watching as the adult got a full feed, and the cub discovered just how cold Arctic water really was.

Fishermans Huts – Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands are just off the west coast of Norway about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Despite this bleak location the islands aren't usually covered with deep snow – the Gulf Stream stretches far enough north to ensure that this.  When I visited in February the islands had just been transformed by a heavy fall of snow – the custodian at a local museum felt the need to apologise that she hadn't yet had the chance to clear her paths and car park.

Around the Lofoten coastline are lots of red-painted, black-roofed, white-windowed wooden huts.  These are the rorbu, the traditional fishermans huts.  Many have now been transformed to luxurious holiday cottages others, like this one at Henningsvaer, looks as if it’s ready for the more traditional use.

In the background there is just a glimpse of the jagged ridge of mountains which run along the length of the Lofoten Islands – from a distance these peaks all seem to join up forming the ‘Lofoten Wall’.

Tabular Berg – Baffin Bay

The first glimpse of this berg was no more than a white line on the horizon.  The crew agreed that it looked a bit like a huge tabular berg, but it couldn't be because you don’t see that sort of berg here.

As we continued north-west across Baffin Bay the white line got longer, and gradually thicker too, then we could pick out the abrupt ends of what really was a tabular berg.

The crew, long experienced in both Arctic and Antarctic waters, decided that this deserved a detour. Several had seen bergs like this (and this big) in the Antarctic, but none had seen a berg like this in Baffin Bay.  The berg was close to two miles long with about 20 metres of ice visible above the water line – we couldn't see the top surface of the berg from the highest point on the boat.

We spent about an hour exploring the edge of the berg, which had probably split from Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland before drifting down into the southern end of Baffin Bay, getting as close as we could to the face.

The exhibition

If you want to see these pictures and more, the exhibition runs from 12th November 2013 to 12th January 2014 – there is more information about the exhibition on the Jam Factory website

Images from this collection are also available on the new North South Images website.

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