Pitch black night, the sky as dark as a raven, crossed intermittently by 3 powerful search lights hunting down their icy prey and all seemingly focused on the same point located infinitely far away on the horizon. Nocturnal blackness where ice barriers suddenly lunge forth, torn from the dim, tenebrous uncertainty. Like time-lapse video, they splice together into a well-formed looming presence until the 6 cm thick steel bow of the slip slices through them with a rumble that quakes through the entire ship—a scene of monumental proportions reminiscent of a grand theatre production.
Effortlessly, almost playfully, the well-organized tiny city of steel stuffed to the rafters with sophisticated technology cuts through the loose colossal ice floes as they crash into each other and us. With a crunch and a creak, the floes are pushed aside, submerged into the rushing waters, setting free the most beautiful nuanced shades of blue and turquoise one could ever imagine, peaked with the most radiant, coldest whites. A complementary spectrum of ochre tones from the algae growing on the undersides of the rearing ice sheets provides a reduced chroma.
Yesterday in the glowing light of evening, a huge iceberg of quite extraordinary architecture, in the form of a gigantic window which from the helicopter’s bird’s eye view gave deep insights into its life underwater life with colours from glowing turquoises to unfathomable indigos. Pure adrenaline.
Now in the Gerlache strait, the whole day is marked with a fireworks-like light display in shifting moods in a breath-taking glacial landscape between mountains that jut forth from the sea—landscapes completely untouched and unspoiled by humankind, as original and as pure as for millions and millions of years. What a contrast to the denatured urban shrines to our hubris where everything is designed on a human scale.
Advance team to Rothera. We fly over mighty glaciers and snowy mountain landscapes, almost close enough to touch—mountains that have never been climbed, landscapes where no one has ever stepped foot. We humans are merely late-arriving guests, having just shown up no more than a blink of an eye ago as far as the history of this place is concerned.
Scott and Amundsen are in my soul. Heroes from an earlier century, who left everything behind to conquer the heart of one of the last spots on the atlas not yet coloured in. Scott’s psychologically poignant diary entries report the unspeakable hardships and tortures which gave one of these men glory and the other death. They bear witness to the faith in individual strength and meaningful values which seem so long lost in the past.
Everything is determined by the route and speed of the ship. The landscape and its “comprehensibility” remain hidden behind the ship’s side and refuse to come closer. This means a huge reduction in my experience because I am accustomed to walking through landscapes, touching them, and experiencing them physically.
My view of the world through the viewfinder’s compositional lens narrows my ability to surrender myself and be lost in the experience without any overriding purpose. I force myself again and again to put the camera aside to feel the overwhelming experience surrounding me, to create space to make emotional connections to the landscapes of my soul.
Rothera at last, finally solid ground under our feet—with my heavy camera bag and everything needed to craft panoramic landscapes, the day is spent alone in awe among the penguins, Weddell and elephant seal, and icebergs. Photographed excessively. Dreamed. Happy.