Records and Extremity

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The century-old photo negatives found frozen in a block of ice at an old expedition supply hut are a marvel of clarity paired with the decay of time, of endeavors lost and gained.

Left behind by the Ross Sea Party of the 1914-1917 Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the same expedition that left behind some recently discovered whisky, the negatives are a record of how we used to explore in a place that is no less inhospitable today than it was back then. The lowest temperatures, the harshest winds, the coldest waters, the deep blue seas teaming with marine life.

Big Razorback Island, McMurdo Sound. The photo was most likely taken from the deck of the Aurora in January 1915. Photo/Caption: Antarctic Heritage Trust

Big Razorback Island, McMurdo Sound.
The photo was most likely taken from the deck of the expedition ship Aurora in January 1915.
Photo/Caption: Antarctic Heritage Trust

How long has the Antarctic been a realm of dreamy extremes?

According to recent research, the aptly named Dry Hills near Taylor Valley haven’t seen rainfall in 14 million years. With the exception of the occasional snow drift, isotope- and fossil-based evidence shows that surface water has been an absent visitor to the Friis Hills, west of the the McMurdo Sound, since the area was covered in a lake and tundra mosses millions of years ago.

Did the photographer who took the rediscovered images of the beset Ross Sea Party realize that he although he was surrounded by water, he was near one of the driest places on earth?

McMurdo Sound Map: Wikipedia

McMurdo Sound
Map: Wikipedia

 

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