A polar bear is perched on the edge of an ice floe. While watching a polar bear gorging on birds' eggs high on the cliffs, due to lack of ice and opportunity to fish, the effects of climate change hit home. 'It's painful to see the devastation,' Seaman says. 'To know what is being lost, and what we may not get back.' Photo: Camille Seaman

By Duncan McCue
2 March 2015

(CBC News) – It was by chance that Camille Seaman first travelled north — a bumped flight on Alaska Airlines led to a free trip to Kotzebue on the Bering Strait.

Little did the San Francisco-based photographer know it was the beginning of a decade-long quest, an unshakable compulsion to take pictures of icebergs in some of the most extreme environments on Earth.

At the time, she simply wanted to document beauty in visually stunning vistas of the Arctic and Antarctica.

She wasn’t thinking about climate change then, but as the newest artist-in-residence at Denali National Park in central Alaska, it’s top of mind now. On her last Arctic sailing in 2011, she says there was almost no ice.

"There was nothing on the radar for ice," she said. "We could have kept going [to the North Pole], if we had enough fuel. It just shouldn’t be."

Part Native American, Seaman attributes her environmental awareness to her childhood spent near the Shinnecock Reservation in New York State, and especially to the teachings of her grandfather.

He would take her for long walks in the woods to introduce her, individually, to trees.

"He really required that you stop at each tree and acknowledge it physically, place your hands on it and feel its life force, its physical structure, and understand it’s a relative to you."

She later brought her grandfather’s sensibilities to her polar art.

While working as an expedition photographer aboard science vessels and commercials ships, she approached each photograph of an iceberg as if it was a portrait of an ancestor: "I've never met two which were alike."

She compiled those photos and stories in a new book titled Melting Away: A Ten-Year Journey through Our Endangered Polar Regions.

"It's painful to see the devastation," said Seaman. "It's painful to know what is being lost, and what we may not get back." [more]

Polar ice loss 'painful to see' for photographer Camille Seaman



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