ANTARCTICA – MADE OF STEEL

One of the interesting and fascinating locations I visited on my Antarctic expedition late last year was the geothermal Whalers Bay area at Deception Island. Located off the Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetlands, Deception Island has one of the safest harbors in Antarctica, sheltering it from prevailing weather. However, the entire island is the caldera of an active volcano; it previously erupted in 1967 and 1969, causing serious damage to scientific stations on the island. Despite several countries claiming sovereignty, the island is thankfully administered by the Antarctic international treaty system and is now mostly visited by tourist expedition ships only. The bay itself steams with rising sulphur along its black sandy shoreline and is home to some fascinating geology. It is also the location for an abandoned whaling station that contains many wonderful artifacts for photography.Whalers Bay is a strange and eerie location with otherworldliness to the landscape that evokes a remote and strange atmosphere. Apart from the intense oranges and reds of the rusted steel remains, there is a muted tonality to the landscape that is at odds with other active volcanic areas I have visited in Iceland and New Zealand, making it a location that is in many ways a photographer’s dream. The natural beauty of Antarctica is perhaps nowhere else so strikingly contrasted with the hand of man than it is at Deception Island.The regular reader will note that this style of photography is different to my normal output. I usually avoid the hand of man from my images because it is pristine wilderness that I take delight in photographing. However, in this instance I found myself drawn to the dichotomy of the rusting steel hulks and structures near the shoreline with the rising sulphur and the desolate surrounding ice and snow environment. There is a story to be told here of man’s influence on our environment. The rusted metal speaks of our past whaling practices and our contempt for the natural world. They now stand as a reminder of the preciousness of Antarctica and its environment.

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