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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

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

December 2, 2010

LV Sketchbook Page 055


Pictured is an ocean organism I imagine marine biologists finding in the icy depths some day. But in addition to continually discovering many new sea floor communities, scientists are also studying ways in which known ones are changing. One such effort is ICE AGED (Investigating Change in Ecology in Antarctica by Gizmologists, Educators and Divers), run by the Benthic Ecology Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the folks behind SCINI mentioned a couple blog posts ago.

The ICE AGED team has returned to an Antarctic experiment site established in the 1960s, a time considered as the dawn of Antarctic benthic research. Comparing original data with the present state of marine life on abandoned equipment is presenting researchers with a unique opportunity to assess nearly five decades of changes in the local ecosystem. One of those researchers is Paul Dayton, now a 71-year-old professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who will be revisiting the very cages and floats he secured to the seafloor as a youth. Here’s wishing Paul and the team success in their research under the ice, and perhaps the discovery of a new organism or two in the process. Read their journals here.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:49 pm

December 1, 2010

LV Sketchbook Page 046


I’ve been working more fabric into the sketchbook for texture, new color, and to maintain the project’s use of found material. It also works to reference the ubiquity of flags (and shreds thereof) in Antarctica.

The shapes here allude to the discovery of many new sea life species each year. There are more discoveries to come as 99% of the Antarctic seafloor remains to be explored.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:46 pm

November 30, 2010

LV Sketchbook Page 001


This Long View sketchbook page takes Antarctic diving as its theme. At coastal bases around the continent, diving plays a role in underwater scientific research, construction, salvage work, and environmental cleanup.

In McMurdo Sound, science divers have been finding new sea life species for decades. They’re now also studying long term ecological change in seafloor communities by deploying remotely operated vehicles beneath the frozen ocean surface.


One such vehicle is SCINI run by the Benthic Ecology Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. My friend Henry Kaiser, pictured in the sketchbook and photos above, documents the underwater robot in a short but stunning video found here.

Divers at the University of British Columbia recently launched a similar probe to study the accelerated shrinkage of Antarctic ice shelves. Their craft, named UBC-Gavia, navigates unchartered ocean environments to collect data necessary to studying the dynamic between sea water and glacier tongues. Read more about the project here.

Antarctic divers are a hard-working bunch who deal with extreme and challenging conditions. But the rewards are extraordinary. One is clearly scientific discovery. Another is creative inspiration, as Henry aptly demonstrates in this video. Enjoy.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 11:44 pm

August 15, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 031


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


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

July 9, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 020


This is a fabric map of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The airstrip is at top. The
new elevated station is shown in blue. The Xs indicate the ever-migrating geographic
South Pole marker, and the knob at right is the Dark Sector, a research area free of electromagnetic interference. Everything else that goes on is at left.

Accuracy and scale aside, I could have used one of these sewn to my jacket sleeve dur-
ing my visit there. It beats fumbling with paper maps in windy, subfreezing conditions.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 5:27 pm

July 8, 2009

LV Sketchbook Page 045


That’s the new South Pole Elevated Station on the left, and the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) on the right. A la fabric discards.

Filed under: Sketchbook Pages — mbartalos @ 5:37 pm
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