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.

Planetarium will be closed Sep. 22, 23, 24

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

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

May 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 055

Antarctic Item 055-CC-Sat-Sh-500x475

I’m continuing to post items by theme that I acquired in Antarctica for my project. Having recently posted a sequence of round metal objects, I’ll be focusing on folded fabric in the coming weeks.

Most of these pieces are mysteries; remnants of larger material which in turn comprised larger objects. Marks, colors, and textures provide clues to their function, but their exact age and history are up for speculation.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:25 pm

March 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 018

Antarctic Item 018-bottom+top-CC-Sat-500x253

These are two sides of the same dented lid. Its weathered surfaces suggest that it was exposed to the elements for many years. Otherwise, the lid’s story remains something of a mystery.

I’ll venture a guess, though. I imagine that the lid sealed a can of rations that Robert F. Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition took to the South Pole. Upon reaching their destination on 17 January 1912, they pitched tent and popped open the can. The lid, tossed to the side, rolled out of the shelter’s unsecured entryway onto the polar plateau. Propelled by frigid gusts, the disc raced across the ice for days, following the landscape’s contours and glaciers. Navigating the Trans-Antarctic mountain range and the Dry Valleys in a final descent towards the open sea, the lid suddenly encountered a fierce blizzard that drove it into a shallow pond, abruptly ending its voyage. For decades it hung suspended in the watery void, surrounded by microscopic creatures. The organisms on one side of the disc increasingly came to regard it as the sun, while the microbes on the other side increasingly saw it as the moon. Eventually it ceased to be an object at all; it was simply two ideas.

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

This and the last three Antarctic Items I featured were generously donated to the Long View project by “Crunch” Noring, the Marble Point camp manager. He retrieved them from the grounds of his Dry Valleys camp, home to numerous remnants from the pre-Code of Conduct era.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:20 pm

January 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 017

Antarctic Item 017-CC-500x431

This is yet another Antarctic artifact in my collection that resembles a makeshift ashtray. Its uneven cut suggests that it too was cut from a can. Unlike the previous ones however, it has no ash marks embedded in the base.

Why would this be? Well, I imagine it was fashioned by the the Nimrod Expedition as a back-up ashtray to replace their principal one should it ever be lost. The principal receptacle was slow to be lost however since it was dearly treasured by the party. As a result, the back-up became a gas tank cap for their motorcar. There it toiled until the beloved principal ashtray was finally misplaced. The back-up was ecstatic (to the extent that ashtrays can be) for it could finally show what it was cut out to be. However the team observed that by this time the back-up ashtray’s inner surface was saturated with all manners of petroleum and combustible by-products, eliminating any possibility of safe contact with live embers. In despair, the back-up released its grip on the gas tank, tossing itself into deep snow. This might have been a sad ending were it not for that it lay undisturbed for a full century, enabling it to harvest one of the more remarkably handsome coats of Antarctic rust. By the time it was unearthed in 2009, it was the envy of its oxidized peers across the continent.

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


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:16 pm

November 30, 2012

Antarctic Item 016

Antarctic Item 016-CC-500x376

Like the previous object, Antarctic Item 016 lends itself to functioning as an ashtray. In all likelihood, it was.

Who used it? Well, I imagine Shackleton tapping his pipe into it at Cape Royds, splitting the rim at the upper left as he strategized his march to the Pole in 1909. The crack reminded him of ruptured ice, and being a touch superstitious, he brought the ashtray along on the journey to ward off such dangers. Nevertheless, ice crevasses continually hindered his team’s progress, swallowing one of their sledge-hauling ponies and nearly two of their men. Eventually Shackleton came to regard the split ashtray as a bad luck omen, discarding it on the return trek in the Dry Valleys. It was a wise move, assuring his team safe passage from there back to Cape Royds.

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


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:13 pm
« Previous PageNext Page »

Academy Blogroll