I fly to Christchurch, NZ via LA and Sydney. I arrive two days later, losing a day when I cross the international date line. Christchurch is on the South Island of New Zealand, and I’ll be spending a week there taking photographs at the Canterbury Museum. This museum hold one of the worlds largest collections of early Antarctic artifacts and specimens, brought back by Scott, Shackleton, Mawson and other heroic era expeditions. Nearby Lyttelton Harbor was the departure and return port for these early expeditions traveling to Antarctica by ship.
The museum has been very accommodating and I have time scheduled with the anthropology curator to select and photograph various artifacts. My intention is to use the photographs that I take at the museum as counterpoints to the present day science specimens and tools that I photograph in Antarctica, and let these images tell the story of the changes that one hundred years has brought to Antarctic science and exploration.
I’m also interested in the early explorers journals and the sketches they made while exploring places like the Taylor Valley in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The sketches will help orient me while in the field, and give a grounding to the work I will be doing there. Much of my work references historical elements, usually in the form of architecture, infrastructure, or landscapes which have been modified by some type of past activity. In the Dry Valleys, where there is no built human history, I’ll be referencing the early visits by Griffith Taylor, Frank Debenham, and Scott as a way to define a route through these immense pathless landscapes, which resemble Mars more than any terrestrial landscape. The early explorers kept good journals, and they are fascinating to read. My connection to these landscapes will be through these literary and drawn artifacts, and the topography, rather than through built or modified landscapes. That, at least, will be my starting point. I will be visiting these locations with science teams that are are involved with the ongoing LTER (long term ecological research) network. I’ll be writing in much more detail about that from the Dry Valley’s.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If I finish my photography work in Christchurch early, I’m hoping to do a little exploring in the area around the city, and towards the mountains, possibly some hiking in the Southern Alps west of Christchurch. A couple place look like good options, either Mt. Cook National Park, or Arthur’s Pass National Park. Both are within a 1/2 days drive of Christchurch, and Arthur’s Pass has the advantage of being accessible by a 3 hour train ride. My decision will depend on weather and how much time I have available. I’ll be in New Zealand’s South Island in their spring, which tends to be chilly and wet. Stay tuned.