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March 24, 2014

Antarctic Item 041

Antarctic Item 041-CC-Sat-500x363

Antarctic Item 041 is a 2.5-inch discarded rivet that I found at McMurdo Station. Although it lacks the bend of my previously posted wire pieces, I’ll make the case that this too resembles a line graph — specifically the Keeling Curve, which is more of a steep, steady incline than a curve.

Keeling Curve-500x360

The Keeling Curve is a graph that plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Recorded from atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa since 1958, it is the longest-running such measurement in the world. The Keeling Curve shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are increasing, and doing so at a faster rate each year. In May 2013, CO2 concentrations in the global atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history.

Filed under: Climate Change,Environment,Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 12:06 am

February 25, 2014

Antarctic Item 028

Antarctic Item 028-CC-Sat-500x349

Antarctic Item 028 is another artifact retrieved from Marble Point. Like the previous strand of wire, this too suggests a line graph. This one takes a downward-slope however, similar to a diagram released by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center showing the extent of Arctic sea ice at the end of August 2013.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent-Aug 2013-500x421

As the graph shows, Arctic sea ice fared better in 2013 than the previous summer. 2012 was a dire year, having broken the 2007 record for lowest daily extent of the satellite area.

Another indicator of fundamental change to the Arctic is ice thickness (not indicated in this graph). Long-term satellite data shows ice thickness declining as fast or faster than its surface area. The Arctic was previously replete with ice that had survived multiple summer thaws, steadily gaining volume over the years. Today, very little of this old mass remains.

Filed under: Climate Change,Environment,Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:57 pm

January 26, 2014

Antarctic Item 027

Antarctic Item 027-CC-Sat-500x353

Antarctic Item 027 is also from Marble Point. Held in the air, the wire strand’s graceful curve echoes the slopes of nearby Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano. Placed against a grid, it resembles a line graph that made the news about a year ago.


The graph accompanied a paper published in the journal Science showing that Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets are melting at an accelerating pace causing seas globally to rise. Combined, the sheets have lost about 4,250 gigatons of ice since 1992, raising the average sea level around the globe by 11 millimeters. Though less than half an inch, this amount significantly increases the water mass capable of striking land during storm surges, necessitating new protection of coastal infrastructure.

Filed under: Climate Change,Environment,Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 3:51 pm

December 27, 2013

Antarctic Item 026

Antarctic Item 026-CC-Sh-500x590

Antarctic Item 026 may be as old as the outpost that housed it. The 12-inch length of bunched wire comes from Marble Point station, established by U.S. military forces in 1956 to facilitate the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year. The IGY was a multinational endeavor to coordinate the collection of geophysical data from around the world. It revived scientific interchange between East and West, initiated a new era of scientific discovery around developing technologies, and lay the foundation for many of today’s polar programs and international collaborations.

Sir Edmund Hillary at Marble Pt-foto by Bill McTigue-500x479

At Marble Point in 1957, this wire would have seen the construction of Antarctica’s first ground air strip (as opposed to ice/snow runways) and its first wheels-on-dirt landing. Or perhaps it arrived on that plane. If so, it was in the company of famed explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, photographed here on his arrival at Marble Point by surveyor Bill McTigue. Hillary went on to reach the South Pole in 1958 as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition for which he led the New Zealand section. Hillary’s party was the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, and the first ever to do so using motor vehicles.

November 28, 2013

Antarctic Item 025

Antarctic Item 025-CC-500x371

Antarctic Item 025 was retrieved from Marble Point, a remote headland on the coast of Victoria Land, Antarctica. The artifact, a length of coiled wire, appears to have been at the mercy of the polar elements for some time. Its brown rust, green patina, and brittle surface texture suggest decades of abrasion by wind and water.

The following few posts will also feature wire discards. In examining and contrasting these objects in close succession, their unique character is revealed, proposing varied pasts and provenances.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 6:53 pm

October 29, 2013

LV Sketchbook Page 057

2013-09-31 LV Sketchbook Page 057-Marine Litter w Eyelets-500x321

Long View Sketchbook page 057 addresses the issue of marine litter, a worldwide environmental problem that extends from the Arctic to Antarctica. Marine litter is defined by the United Nations Environment Programme as ‘persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.’ Such items drift for long distances, driven by ocean currents and winds. The debris is commonly found on the water surface, on seabeds, and beaches, from populated areas to remote regions.

A great deal of this waste is plastic which degrades slowly, if at all. The continued accumulation of these materials in the ocean and their inability to be restored to non-toxic forms exacerbates build-up and ensures long-term environmental pollution. This trend has been observed by a number of scientific studies across the globe, confirming that the marine litter situation worsens each year.

In Antarctica, one such survey was made in 1997 by Chilean scientists on Livingston Island. At this site alone, well over 1,600 pieces of litter were found, nearly all of them plastic. Approximately one third of the items were strapping bands, ropes and net pieces from fisheries to the north. Over 700 of the items were made of polystyrene which is notoriously slow to biodegrade, especially in its foam form.

My image represents the threats that plastic debris poses to marine ecosystems. The left side of the diptych pictures a creature caught in discarded fishing netting, also known as ghost nets for their relative invisibility under water. Entangling sea life, the nets restrict movement, causing starvation, laceration, and suffocation in organisms that need to return to the surface to breathe.

The right half of the collage alludes to the potential transfer of toxic chemicals from marine debris to the food chain. Not recognizing synthetic material, animals often mistake it for food, proving lethal when swallowed in significant quantities.

There are varied efforts presently under way to study and reduce the impacts of marine litter. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is an initiative that partners with other agencies to support research and introduce measures to eliminate plastic debris. Their blog is especially informative. Other notable movements include Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas campaign and Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris events.

Filed under: Environment,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 8:33 pm

September 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 057

Antarctic Item 057-CC-500x332

Antarctic Item 057, a yellow piece of fabric with four protruding cords, comes from McMurdo Station’s Berg Field Center which issues food, supplies and science equipment to field parties.

Like the preceding artifact, Item 057 is a fragment of a larger piece of material that presumably had a purpose. Reduced to its present size, I’ll propose it still has use to resourceful explorers in the field.

How? Well, I imagine its four long winding cords arranged on the yellow field to create a makeshift map describing topographical contours, boundaries, and passable routes. The party using it for this purpose would be lost of course, with a long march ahead of them. When their shoelaces inevitably give out on the march, these cords would serve as replacements. And when their camp flag gets shredded by polar winds, the yellow remnant would be hoisted as the new beacon, inevitably leading to their rescue.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:47 pm

August 31, 2013

LV Sketchbook Page 059

2013-08-30 LV Sketchbook Page 059-Zipper Closed-500x320

The central element of my new sketchbook page is an abstraction of the constellation Pavo. Visible from Antarctica in the austral winter, Pavo is the 44th largest constellation in the sky and contains five stars with confirmed planets. It is named for Argos of Greek mythology who was transformed into a peacock by the goddess Juno upon his death to be eternally honored as a constellation. Pavo was first depicted in a star atlas in 1603 as part of Uranometria by German celestial cartographer Johann Bayer.

In my image, Pavo is flanked by neighboring constellations Triangulus Australe (originally called Triangulus Antarcticus) on the left and Indus on the right, over which a comet passes.

The zippered border represents the lifespan of our universe with a defined beginning and end. Astrophysicists at places such as the South Pole’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory have long gathered data that adds to our knowledge about the birth and expansion of the universe. But what of its long-term stability? Recent studies of the mass of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, whose discovery was announced at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider last year, suggest that the universe may in fact be fundamentally unstable and destined for a catastrophic end.

Should this be so, there is no need for immediate concern. The termination of our cosmos is projected to take place tens of billions of years in the future, well after our own sun burns out in 4.5 billion years.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 3:30 am

July 30, 2013

LV Sketchbook Page 060

2013-07-30 LV Sketchbook Page 060-Black Hole + Hydra Const-500x333

My interest in space, time, and the ‘fabric of the cosmos’ has given rise to some new sketchbook pieces — in fabric. This image takes the skies of the southern hemisphere for its subject, depicting an abstraction of the constellation Hydra. It is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, having been listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.

Hydra’s brightest star is Alphard (Alpha Hydrae), an orange giant represented by the shining orb on the right. Another of the constellation’s notable features is NGC 3314, a pair of galaxies that appear superimposed from Earth yet are separated from each other by millions of light years. NGC 3314 is pictured in the blue field on the upper left.

The centerpiece of my composition shows Hydra A, a galaxy cluster about 840 million light years from Earth. At the center of one of its galaxies lies a supermassive black hole that, while swallowing matter from its host galaxy, also generates large jets of material extending outward for hundreds of thousands of light years. These emissions, believed to be enriched by chemicals produced in galactic supernovae, contain significant amounts of iron and other elements, offering clues to where the complex chemicals that make up our world come from.

In my assemblage, the black hole is nestled securely in its galactic pocket, tethered to the fearful water-serpent.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:50 pm

June 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 056

Antarctic Item 056-CC-Sat-500x384

This item is made of two large pieces of fabric. An orange field meets a black field in what feels like waterproof material. Whatever it is, it is incomplete. At some point the orange area was cut into with pinking shears, reducing its size. The excised segment, which might have provided clues to the item’s function, was lost by the time I acquired the remaining fabric.

What could this missing section have been? I imagine it was the bottom portion of a high-visibility tent cover which, once the tent was pitched, came into contact with the frosty Antarctic terrain. When the time came to strike the tent, the bottom edge of the cover was encased in layers of ice which had built up over a week of strong gales. The shelter’s occupants had no choice but to cut the protective cover free from its mooring, which they did with pinking shears as not to dull their more essential blades. With the tent cover remnant in tow, they continued hurriedly towards their destination ahead of the next impending storm.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:35 pm
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