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August 15, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 031

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As promised, more artwork about stacks of stuff. This one imagines the stuff and activity in Shackleton’s Cape Royds hut as they worked the letterpress. The press itself was removed from the premises long ago and was said to be returned to England. Whether it was kept as an historic artifact or discarded as obsolete is unclear, but I’m looking into it.

I’m using a quasi-Cubist approach to stylistically describe Scott and Shackleton’s era. Cubism and the heroic age of polar exploration both developed at the same time, made use of found objects, and were groundbreaking exploits in their own ways.


Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:10 pm

August 14, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 025

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The 1988 Madrid Protocol, as I mentioned yesterday, calls for all Antarctic Treaty countries to remove their old trash as well as their newly generated waste from the continent. Twenty years on, cleaning up the old stuff remains the taller order because of irreversible early waste management practices.

One such practice involved bulldozing rubbish out onto sea ice during winter to have it sink when the ice broke up in spring. “Sea-icing,” as it was called, had its heyday from 1955 (when McMurdo Station was built) to 1981 (when sea-icing was discontinued). During this period, scores of fuel drums, machinery and scrap metal accumulated off McMurdo’s shores. Open burning, untreated sewage, oil and chemical spills, and coastal landfills also contributed high concentrations of hydrocarbons, PCBs, and other toxic chemicals to the water and bottom sediments.

View across Winter Quarters Bay towards McMurdo Station in January 2009, with Scott's Discovery Hut at left.

The primary dumping ground during those decades was Winter Quarters Bay, seen here in January ’09 with a view towards McMurdo. Robert Falcon Scott had used this natural harbor to anchor his ship Discovery for two winters during his 1901-04 expedition. During their stay, he and his crew built the historic Discovery Hut seen at left.

Winter Quarters Bay would never be that clean again. By the 1990s, the cove was deemed one of the most polluted spots on Earth. (“Testing Tainted Waters.”)

Despite the clean-ups, contamination still exists and is likely to remain for some time. One reason is that hydrocarbons break down at very slow rates in Antarctic temperatures. Another factor is the cost and logistics of retrieving vast quantities of sunken trash. According to a 2001 New Zealand sponsored study, researchers revealed 15 vehicles, 26 shipping containers, and 603 fuel drums among approximately 1,000 items strewn across the Winter Quarters seabed. In addition, a 2005 survey determined that the act of decontaminating the bay risked creating greater adverse environmental impact than leaving the waste where it is. (“Contaminants Measured Near McMurdo.”)

On a positive note, the bay’s contaminants appear to be localized thanks to a shoal that prevents the toxins from spreading into open water beyond. I imagine Captain Scott cheering for that. And toasting the Madrid Protocol. And flipping over conscientious waste management. And high-fiving Shackleton over the ban on sea-icing.

This could be good sketch material. In the meanwhile, today’s drawing/collage juxtaposes stacks of stuff in Scott’s hut with stacks of stuff submerged outside his door to illuminate the proximity and continuity between them. More artwork to follow on this theme.


Filed under: Antarctic History and Exploration,Environment,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:37 pm

August 13, 2009

Long View Studies 3 & 4

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These two compositions allude to a time when open burning of garbage was common in Antarctica. The practice lasted well into the 1980s alongside proliferating dumps, sea-bound sewage, contaminant fuel and lubricant spills, and casual littering (providing for most of the found items showcased on this site).

1988, however, marked a turning point in attitudes to waste disposal on the Ice. Extensive clean-up efforts initiated at McMurdo Station led to the removal and return of major trash dumps to the U.S., to the prohibition of shoreline dumping, and to the enforcement of new sewage and grey water discharge protocols. Incineration and hazmat handling were also rethought and refined with environmental awareness in mind.

By 1998, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (also known as the Madrid Protocol) was ratified by all countries operating in Antarctica, expressing a joint commitment to protecting the continent’s natural resources. It specifies that newly generated waste be routinely removed from Antarctica and that waste from previous decades be dealt with as well. The clean-up of that earlier waste has proven to be the greater challenge, which I’ll speak of tomorrow.

Both these artworks are small, about 2.75″ square, created in cut paper, graphite and gesso on bark paper. Study #4 was recently featured in the Dime Bag 3 exhibit at Giant Robot New York. More on the show here and a flickr set here.


Filed under: Environment,Studies — mbartalos @ 10:52 pm

August 4, 2009

Long View on Vacation

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The Long View blog returns next week from summer vacation. In the meanwhile, Antarctica is never far from mind. We sighted a penguin today on our road trip, a fascinating species we dubbed Legonicus legoliae. An entertaining variety, but not
nearly as active as the CalAcademy’s African Penguins.


Filed under: Updates, Events, News, Info, Interviews — mbartalos @ 11:10 pm

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