Tuesday, November 06, 2007

2 hours in Antarctica

Rosemarie and Pat Keough’s two hour presentation, Passion and Obsession, on their life and photography in Antarctica on October 31st was one of the most inspirational, beautiful and enriching experience I’ve had in a long time. It was truly a privilege to be in their presence and learn so much about the highest continent through their eyes. Some facts that would interest you:

  • The interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world and the snow feels like sand.
  • 24 hours sunlight throughout the day can easily cause insomnia.
  • 99.6% of the continent is ice with 70% of world’s freshwater.
  • 200 people get to go every year.
  • Antarctica is home to more than 70 lakes that lie thousands of meters under the surface of the continental ice sheet. They are at 22 degrees Celsius with honey comb structures of ice.
  • Antarctica does not have a cloud cover (due to global warming) unlike the Arctic.
  • Antarctica is home to many volcanoes, only Mount Erebus is known to be active.
I was in awe as they described the making of their award-winning book ANTARTICA with state-of-the-art combination of “hollow-back split board” and the “classic European full-leather” styles of fine morocco binding. The book weights 19.2 pounds, a marvellous effort of four artisans, assisted by two sewers over the span of 10 years for a total of 950 copies that will be preserved forever.
It’s almost unfair to talk about their work without the actual photographs. Rosemarie talked about how she spent five hours in the snow with her chin sticking out for almost a month just to focus on and photograph a section of the largest penguin colony. Pat explained his amazing relationship with his wife and how it helped saves their lives in the worst of storms and many other narrow near-death experiences such as hanging off cliffs! Everyone in the audience noticed how both of them would complete the other's sentences very seamlessly. When they first met, it was on a one-month cruise so they had no choice but to get along, and more than 2 decades later their love has only grown.
I explored twenty four months of their lives, as they switched between the pictures of the polar plateau of the interior, the majestic mountainous coast, multitudes of off-lying islands, icy seas, stormy Southern ocean, and delightful colonies of different penguins species, fur seals, mosses, lichen, and many types of algae.
White, with hints of subtle colours, had never been so beautiful before. At one point during the presentation, I was quite moved, longing to take the daring trip myself. You do not have to be a photographer to appreciate the depths of the Keough’s unparalleled photography that included a variety of perspective, geometrical contrasts, panoramic views and close-ups all taken with their plain 30-year old Nikon camera!
The presentation ended with Pat and Rosemarie talking about their cause- Donating all the profits from the books sales to the Save the Albatross Foundation, and other international wildlife charities. There’s much work to be done, if we want to save our environment.
You can visit their website at: http://www.keough-art.com/ and read more about their work.

Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/2003/antarctica/
Los Angeles Times:
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-os-antarctica20jan20,0,459112.story?coll=la-news-environment


I wanted to know how this affected them spiritually. They responded that both of them were not religious, but there's definitely that sense of smallness, and the supremacy of nature when they are out there. Pat said that it's extremely energising (and he did a light bounce) and wondered why people get into drugs- all they need is a trip down there! Subhanallah. In winters the ice doubles to twice the original distance. It's easy to tell the different species of penguins apart, especially the Macaroni (hair-styled) penguins. The abandoned shacks preserve the smell of sweat and tobacco until today. Aren't these miraculous signs of Allah (swt)?
I thought about the challenges a Muslim would face if he/she would venture into the cold- How to pray, and how many times a day? In which direction? Our religion has answers to all these questions, Alhamdulillah.

3 comments:

Ozair said...

That is pretty neat .. I have had a fascination with Antarctica too. I would always read the articles in National Geographic on it.

Non-Muslims always ask me how we pray/fast in places where the sun does not set or rise .. and I found this article that talks about a town in Norway here

sheepoo said...


سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ


Soon We will show them Our Signs in farthest regions of the earth and among their own people until it becomes manifest to them that it is the truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is Witness over all things? [41:53]

Humairah Irfan said...

Ozair, I won't be surprised if you were on the next chopper to Antarctica. Let me know when, I'll tag along!

Jazakallah for the link Sheepoo bhai. It's amazing how the Qur'an has an ayah for everything that a human can wonder about...