John Whirlwind’s Doublebeat Songs, 1956
By Ray Young Bear
Good-smelling are these flowers.
As it turned out, they were milkweeds
as the wind passes by,
as the wind passes by.
It is now almost daylight,
I said to the firefly.
For the last time
For the last time.
by Galway Kinnell
Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.
Editorial: When the winds of war start to rise (North Korea, Afghanistan) I reread All Quiet on the Western Front to help me think about war. This is a grim bit, but telling too. Life is at an end
(p. 117) We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell-hole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see mean without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whine, life is at an end.
Still the little piece of convulsed earth in which we lie is held. We have yielded no more than a few hundred yards of it as a prize to the enemy. But on every yard there lies a dead man.
Also after this reading I watched for the first time the 1930 film adaptation. Who knew old movies were so goofy, even ones about the horrors of WWI that won two Oscars? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Quiet_on_the_Western_Front_(1930_film)
It took me a few sightings to appreciate that icebergs are as diverse as they are plentiful. This means I started shooting iceberg portraits relatively late on our trip. Here are a few highlights.
More from the Antarctica notebook.
The next impossible photo to capture is the one that conveys what it feels like to stumble upon half-a-million penguins, which is what we did at St. Andrews Bay on South Georgia Island.
St. Andrews Bay was cut by two glaciers, which are now in retreat, leaving a wide gravel shore that is home to a massive king penguin colony. We learned that this is one of the largest penguin colonies in the world, holding roughly half-a-million penguins during its peak season (December and January). Quiet simply, visiting this many animals all at once boggles the mind, body and spirit.
But how do you capture this experience photographically? Again the internet provides lots of good attempts (image search “st andrews bay south georgia penguins“). Here’s one of my favorites from National Geographic:
And here’s one of my own photos taken from the gravel beach looking out across the colony:
While these images capture the density of the colony quite nicely, neither gives a sense of its expanse. Hopefully these photos do just that:
I took these photos from the deck of the ship as we sailed away from St. Andrews Bay. The first photo really tells the whole story: the multi colored specs at the bottom are penguins (!!); the massively retreating glacier in the middle of the photo is Heaney Glacier; and Sheridan Peak is at the top.
The second image was ‘nested’ in the first, and the third image ‘nested’ in the second, hopefully providing a three-step zoom effect on this landscape.
In the end I fared better at this task than the Penguins Porpoising, which in retrospect remains the true Holy Grail of Antarctica photography.
The Holy Grail of Antarctica photography is the full-frame, head-on shot of penguins porpoising. I tried over and over to get it and came up with bupkis.
Penguins porpoise when they swim fast through the water and leap into the air. They porpoise in rafts, and they do so quickly. I’m not sure why penguins porpoise—maybe to get a clear look at their surroundings, or to escape predators, or because they can—but it is great fun to watch. Penguins are as graceful moving through the water as they are clumsy on land.
Image search “porpoising penguins” on the internet and you will see lots of great photos– but none of them are the Holy Grail.
There are two challenges to getting the perfect shot. I already mentioned the first; it is hard to snap porpoising penguins because they move through the water so quickly. The other challenge is distance and setting. It is hard to know where the penguins are and when they will pop up, and typically the setting is a huge distraction anyway. To illustrate this point, here’s one of my average photos of porpoising (I have a zillion such images from our trip):
Here is a zoom-in on a pair just bombing along:
And finally, here is a handful of similar images, but zoomed and cropped: