“The Fragile Beauty of Earth’s Polar Regions” was posted to discovermagazine’s web site Fri. Oct. 31, 2014.
Our planet’s most extreme environments are also some of its most threatened.
Photographer Camille Seaman first traveled to the Arctic in 1999. Between 2003 and 2011, she visited the Arctic and Antarctic on a yearly basis, ranging from one pole to the other as an expedition photographer aboard science vessels and commercial ships.
In her new book Melting Away, Seaman collects the photographs and essays that resulted from this exploration of our increasingly fragile polar regions. Here are some of our favorites:
Running to See
Of this photo, taken on the Ross Sea in Antarctica, Camille writes:
“I watched the penguins travel across the ice for hours. They would waddle and fall, waddle and slide, and little by little they came all the way over to see our massive ship wedged in the sea ice. They looked at us by turning their heads first to the left, then to the right. After thirty minutes of them looking at us and us looking at them, the penguins decided they still didn’t know what we were or why we were there. They turned around and began their long journey back to their home.”
This beach in Svalbard, Norway, was used by whalers since the early 1600s. The large whale vertebra in the foreground is evidence of their activities, which ended in the 1930s.
This photo, taken in the Antarctic Sound, put Camille in mind of the sunsets painted by J.M.W. Turner.
“In late February, as we headed north through the Antarctic Sound, we were fortunate to experience an Antarctic sunset. The colors were epic. The sun set in front of us and was rising behind us at the same time. Truly an experience I will never forget.”
These oil drums, photographed outside the Brazilian base in Antarctica in 2007, foreshadowed the destruction of the base in a fire in 2012. “Antarctica is an unforgiving place,” Camille says.
The jaw-dropping vista of the Rasmussen Glacier in Scoresbysund, eastern Greenland.
Of this photo taken in eastern Greenland, Camille writes:
“As our ship passed by this iceberg, which stood some three hundred feet out of the water, the birds were disturbed enough to leave their resting spots. I love the elephant-skin quality of the surface of this berg.”
John Palmer, a doctor from Australia, also serves as a traffic operator for the icebreaker’s two helicopters. Here, he looks off into the distance where two massive icebergs are about to collide in a strong swell. One of the helicopters (too small to see in this image) had flown out to observe the icebergs up close.
“Antarctica is big, but the sky is bigger. The clouds that cover Antarctica can seem enormous, and when the clouds are lit by the sun magic can happen. I tend to spend as much time as I can out on deck, always looking, always ready. On this evening my diligence was rewarded.”
Walrus v. Hut
This hefty walrus in Svalbard, Norway, makes the nearby hut look tiny by comparison.
This iceberg, calved off the Kongsfjord Glacier in Svalbard, Norway, showed its “true colors” thanks to the overcast day.
Of this young bear, photographed in Svalbard, Norway, Camille writes: “She looked at us as we sat in our zodiac. The passengers were eating chocolate covered strawberries and sipping champagne from long-stemmed glasses. I wondered what she thought as she looked at us. Her mother was about a thousand feet away and raised her head every now and then to get a good whiff of her cub. She was almost two years old, almost ready to leave her mother and go off on her own. I will probably never see her again. I wished her luck as I took this photo.”