55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
94118
415.379.8000
Regular Hours:

Daily

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:

Tuesday

8:30 – 9:30 am

Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
Closures
Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Rainforest will be closed Sep. 9 & 10

June 25, 2014

LV Sketchbook Page 056

Antarctic Sketchbook page 056-500x326

Antarctica is Earth’s only continent without a native human population. Nevertheless it now has as anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people residing in research stations throughout the year across the region. They come from 30 different nations, all signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that regulates international relations on the Ice. An additional 20 nations without Antarctic bases are signatories as well. As such, the The Antarctic Treaty Organization’s flag design, adopted in 2002, is the closest that the continent has to an official flag.

This has prompted several designers to propose their version of what Antarctica’s official banner might be. The designs are not unattractive. However in my view, any single flag is bound to fall short in communicating the continent’s lack of sovereign rule. Single emblems imply single political entities, which Antarctica is not. Instead, Antarctica’s identity might better be served by introducing not one, but an endless procession of new flags. Collectively, this would represent continually changing ideas of what a non-nation continent can and should be.

This and the following few sketchbook pages muse on what this procession might look like. Created with fabric, they combine national and territorial emblems with altered colors and fictional embellishments to produce hybrids that speak to the shared nature of Antarctica and the diversity of its inhabitants.


Filed under: Antarctic History and Exploration,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:39 pm

May 31, 2014

LV Sketchbook Page 009

Antarctic Sketchbook page 009-500x324

LV Sketchbook Page 009 takes France’s Dumont d’Urville research station for its subject.
The base was established in 1956 and named after 19th-century explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville. Situated off the Antarctic coast on Île des Pétrels in the archipelago of Pointe Géologie in Adélie Land, the station accommodates about 120 summer personnel and 30 winter-overs.

Science conducted at the base includes the study of wildlife, notably that of Emperor penguins which reproduce there in winter. It is also a summer home to Adélie penguins, Giant petrels, Snow petrels, Cape petrels, and skuas. Various species of penguins, killer whales, and rorquals also make appearances, inviting studies in ornithology, ichthyology,
and microbiology.

Other fields of research include atmosphere chemistry, polar ozone, meteorology, geophysics, seismology, human immunology, psychology, and sleep studies. In addition to scientific work, Dumont d’Urville serves as a conduit for supplying Concordia Station, France’s Antarctic inland base.

Logistics support is provided by a team of contractors that make up about half of the crew at any given time and the program is operated by the French Polar Institute (Institut Polaire Français Paul Émile Victor – IPEV), a governmental support agency. A chronological sequence of weekly pictures shot by IPEV’s webcam at Dumont d’Urville can be found on their website here.


Filed under: Antarctic Research Facilities,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:37 pm

April 27, 2014

LV Sketchbook Page 007

Antarctic Sketchbook page 007-500x332

My newest sketchbook page pictures Sagittarius, the largest constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. It has many bright stars and the most stars with known planets — 16 at present count. But perhaps its most celebrated feature is a bright astronomical radio source called Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”), believed by scientists to be the site of our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole.

Sagittarius A* is invisible as all black holes are, but researchers are on course to observing the glow of matter near its edge — a region known as the event horizon — through an international effort called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Led by MIT and and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the project links several of the world’s most powerful radio dishes to create a telescope array that discerns detail 2,000 times finer than the Hubble Space Telescope can. As a result, the EHT is expected to offer mankind its first image of the black hole’s ridge, or “shadow,” located 26,000 light-years from Earth.

The array will include the South Pole Telescope operating at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, as reported by Space.com. The SPT’s advanced capabilities and remote location are key to the array’s technique known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry. VLBI uses the distances between the EHT radio dishes — which stretch from Antarctica through Chile, Mexico, Hawaii, California, Spain, France, Greenland and beyond — to capture the black hole’s signals from several different angles which MIT’s supercomputers precisely combine to produce a data set with much higher resolution than any one dish can manage on its own. The EHT is, in effect, a virtual telescope the size of the Earth.

In observing the black hole’s dynamics, scientists also hope to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity which defines our contemporary understanding of gravity. While Einstein’s theories have been verified in low-gravitational situations such as on Earth and in the solar system, it remains to be seen whether they hold up under the extreme gravitational fields at a black hole’s edge. The EHT project will be conducting these studies in collaboration with BlackHoleCam, a European-led VLBI endeavor with similar objectives.


Filed under: Antarctic Research Facilities,Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:34 pm

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.

NASA-ESA-_ice_sheet_contribution_500x320

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. Even reduced to its present size, I’ll propose it still has use to resourceful explorers in the field.

How? Well, I imagine a lost party arranging the fabric’s four long winding cords over the yellow field to create a makeshift map in discussing topographical contours, boundaries, and passable routes. They’d have had a long march ahead of them, and when their shoelaces inevitably gave out, these cords would serve as replacements. And when their camp flag got shredded by polar winds, the yellow remnant would be hoisted as the new beacon, triumphantly 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
Next Page »

Academy Blogroll