Antarctic Reflections / by Glenn Dixon

(Newspaper Excerpt)

Men Wanted. For hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of bitter darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success.

- Ernest Shackleton. 4 Burlington St.

The experiences and individual stories of the past month are still processing, I cannot begin to do them justice at this time. I am discovering new things by the day as I write and look through the photographs. I cannot wait until I can sit down at mission control in Australia and get to work on a book and print series.

I boarded a ship to Antarctica on the 29th of November, sat in a cafe on the 11th after disembarkation and decided the most important thing to do in my life was get straight back on that same boat and go again. I cannot explain why, even to myself, as words and logic seem futile descriptors when dealing with such matters. On the first voyage I made close to 3500 photographs, during the second expedition I created significantly less, around 800. Some mornings I would arrive to the shore on a Zodiac. I would walk as far away from everybody as possible to an isolated spot on the beach. There I would sit for up to three hours, occasionally making a photograph when something provoked my minds eye. The most important thing was to take off the Wellington boots and feel my bare feet rub against the cool rock. I would watch as penguins scurried around my feet, desperately trying to construct nests from stolen rocks courtesy of their preoccupied neighbours. I could hear the gentle trickle of water flowing from sun sculpted icebergs and smell the breath of the occasional Minke whale that glided past.

The first voyage provided the bulk of the photographic work. The second expedition encouraged the reflections, afforded the sense of space, wonder and story gathering.  As a solo traveller on the second voyage, I spent a lot more time engaging with the other passengers onboard, listening to their stories at meal times and taking notes. One thing I did wrestle with during the trip was finding my own space, both physical and emotional. I work best when I am alone, when I can construct an emotional and spatial barrier protecting myself and my subject from the world around us. Even if it is just for a fleeting moment, if I am completely seduced there is nothing else in the world that seems to matter.

Above: Wilhelmina Bay. Antarctica

Middle: Iceberg Graveyard. Antarctica

Below: Whaler's Bay, Deception Island. Antarctica

On the 29th of December I waited at the boarding gate at Ushuaia airport staring out toward the Beagle channel, wondering what my friends aboard the Ocean Diamond were up to. They are probably somewhere in the Falklands Islands about now. I sometimes find it difficult to take that big step forward when an experience has touched me so deeply. I don’t think it is attributed wholely to nostalgia, more a reluctance or perhaps fear that everything swimming through my body will fade the moment I draw that last breath and walk through that boarding gate. Although the curtain has fallen spectacularly on this chapter, it is time to forge out a new one. It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, quite the opposite. I was greatly moved by an email from my friend David who stated; “We’ll put ourselves through hell if need-be to reveal their character and get them to the point where they can triumph.”

I guess the only thing to do now is fasten your seatbelt, turn to the stranger next to you with all the foolish courage you can muster and shake their hand with true compassion and a childlike curiosity.

-  Live your story.