The city that I love and will miss for four months: Minneapolis.
Big News! Four-month Photo Expedition
I haven’t mentioned this until now because I didn’t want to jinx it, but my grant from the National Science Foundation was just approved Monday! This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will be whisking me away from the Twin Cities for four months. I will be searching out and documenting some rare and unique wildlife that inhabits the shoreline near McMurdo Antarctic Research Station on Ross Island, Antarctica. The evidence I uncovered from several sources and my success as a small-animal photographer we instrumental in the grant-approval process.
McMurdo Station supplies the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station throughout the long winter (which in Southern Hemisphere is from June through September).
I am looking forward to the challenge of photographing nature’s austere beauty in this remote amazing landscape as well as the nocturnal animal that will be the focus of my work. I also have the funds to upgrade to the high-end camera gear that I could never justify before.
I will be ordering a couple of Nikon D3 cameras and a few different lenses. A few I have in mind are the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 D IF AF and the Nikon AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR. If anyone has suggestions for other large-aperture lenses, let me know, low light capabilities are crucial.
I’ll be leaving Minneapolis on April 30th and flying to Christchurch, New Zealand. On May 5th I’ll be boarding the icebreaker USCGC Polar Sea for the two-week trip to McMurdo Station. During that time I hope to get some industrial photos of the working icebreaker in action.
On May 20th or there a bouts (depending on ice conditions) I will arrive at McMurdo and get prepared for my trips along the Antarctic wilderness shoreline tracking the critters that are the focus of my study. I will spend the first week checking out the site of the decommissioned nuclear power station and interviewing some of the crews working on the McMurdo-South Pole Highway. I’m sure that I can find some pretty interesting characters working there to take portraits of as well.
Then as the full Antarctic winter night begins (full darkness 24 hours a day) I can begin the pursuit of my quarry: a special drove of arctic hares that are decedents of two brought to the island by Ernest Shackleton’s third mate Avery Chicane aboard the Endurance in 1916.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a nuclear power station at McMurdo that had an unpublicized “event” in 1972 which lead to its decommission. Due to cold-war tensions at the time, this “event” was kept under wraps and was completely cleaned up before Greenpeace established World Park Base on the island in 1987.
One of the effects of this was that the arctic hares had been contaminated by the fallout. They experienced a strange mutation has had a beneficial effect on these hares; they’re bodies began manufacturing luciferin in large enough quantities to cause bioluminescence.
Normally this would pose a threat to any animal, but they have flourished. With no natural predators on the island, their luminescence does not invite attack. The eerie green light has made it easier for them to find food and apparently each other. Some have speculated that the glow has also made them more attracted to each other because the populations are growing.
Though they have been growing in number since the ‘80s, there have been almost no reported sightings for several reasons. For one, in the daylight, the glow is impossible to see — only at night is the glow visible at all. Also, since they are very shy, only a few McMurdo-South Pole Highway workers have seen them and they were reticent to report a glow-in-the-dark rabbit to their superiors. But eventually, over the years, a few of them have.
One of those men who saw them is now in Minnesota at Hazelden. I met him through a friend who was also being treated there. After extensive interviews with him and his doctors, I’m convinced of the story and was able persuade Director Mark Buffer at the National Science Foundation as well.
Now that the trip is confirmed, I can talk publicly about this. I’m still processing it all myself. I have a lot of packing and some awesome cold-weather gear to buy. REI is going to make out like a bandit, I’ll need lot of fleece, this is the biggest snow-job of my life.
It’s a absolute dream come true for me, over-wintering on the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf — truly a fool’s paradise.
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Check back tomorrow for the CDPB Theme Day photo and more about Antarctica.