Photos Document Endangered Icebergs

Posted December 14, 2007 at 6:21pm

Recent studies of Greenland’s glaciers have shown the detrimental effect of climate change on the world’s ice sheets and sea levels. Climate scientists reported earlier this week that the island’s ice cap has melted more this year than in any other year since measurements began in 1979.

Amid this and other ominous signs that global warming may be occurring at an even faster rate than scientists had predicted, American photographer Camille Seaman has set out to document icebergs in the Arctic regions of Svalbard and Greenland, and in Antarctica. Some of the resulting photographs are featured in an ongoing exhibition at the National Academies’ Keck Center.

The exhibit, “The Last Iceberg,” is one piece of Seaman’s larger project titled “Melting Away.” Its purpose is capturing the Earth’s polar regions, including the history of their exploration and the communities that have formed there.

“Seaman’s work demonstrates the effectiveness of visual culture in conveying the complex ideas surrounding global warming and the physical impact it is having on our world and its natural beauty,” said JD Talasek, director of Exhibitions and Cultural Programs at the National Academy of Sciences. “The exhibition provides a platform for discussion and hopefully will stimulate thought, debate and curiosity about our environment and our changing climate.”

Seaman is currently traveling in Antarctica and was not available for an interview, but she has described the icebergs as “stoic, growing masses of time and experience.” She compares the condition of the icebergs she is documenting to that of human lives.

“The Last Iceberg chronicles just a handful of the many thousands of icebergs that are currently headed to their end,” she writes on her Web site. “I approach the images of icebergs as portraits of individuals, much like family photos of my ancestors. I seek a moment in their life in which they convey their unique personality, some connection to our own experience and a glimpse of their soul which endures.”

Talasek said Seaman has created a “stunning visual record of these regions as they undergo rapid changes due to global warming” through her photographs at the exhibit, which offers a “venue for artists who explore the impact of science and technology on our culture and identity.”

The exhibit at the Keck Center, 500 Fifth St. NW, is on view by appointment through Feb. 26. Call 202-334-2436 to make a viewing appointment. Waleed Abdalati, manager of NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program, will also give a free lecture, “Rapid Changes in Polar Ice Cover: What Happens There Matters Here,” on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in Room 100 of the Keck Center. A photo ID will be required.

After Feb. 26, the photographs will move to the National Academy of Sciences’ headquarters at 2100 C St. NW, where they will be on public display from March 3 through June 2.