WARNING! STUNNING IMAGES THAT AIM TO INSPIRE CHANGE HERE!
It is getting pretty chilly here in Sydney but I am not talking about me with the frostbite thing!
I am talking about the amazing, globally renowned National Geographic photojournalist and conservationist Paul Nicklen.
Paul works mainly in the Arctic Circle and is passionate about taking beautiful images that speak to environmental causes, images that will draw people into a story.
This weekend I listened with an open mouth and unblinking eyes to his talesof adventure at the Sydney Opera House and was blown away by the risks he takes to get the perfect wildlife shot!
Paul has been knocked out by emperor penguins flying out of the water, has crashed a sea plane and has had hypothermia after spending over an hour diving with whales at 40m depth in below freezing temperatures.
Although he frequently falls through the ice, his worst moment was when he really did plunge ‘into the icy realms’ and fell through the middle of two rolling icebergs each the size of a car. He grabbed the rope attached to his sled as he fell and became trapped underwater, which dislocated his shoulder. Luckily a local hunter pulled him out before he had ran out of breath. Despite it taking two hours to pop his shoulder back in again, he was grinning the whole time as they had just got some incredible narwhal images that they had been waiting for over two months for. The 'long wait' is not uncommon and includes camping in a very cold tent and eating raw mutton and seal meat that is kept cold and cured by the outside saltwater air.
I loved Paul’s story of a leopard seal trying to make friends with him by repeatedly offering penguins for him to eat, and attempting to force feed him when he did not eat them.
During his fantastic talk, I learnt about how ring seals are the only animal to give birth actually in the ice and are crucial to the polar ecosystem. The ice is like an inverted garden with 300 species of microorganisms contained in it. Polar bears also need ice to live and are the best animal to use to communicate about sea ice melting as we as humans can relate to the personas captured in their faces.
When you are staring into the face of a 15-20m bowhead whale that was born in 1760 (!), Paul states that “you’re looking at art, science and conservation”. This incredible creature has survived the industrial revolution, whaling and world wars, but now its biggest threat is sea ice loss.
I was reminded that the speed of sea ice melt accelerates because the albedo of water is lower than the highly reflective ice, so as there is more melt and therefore more water, more of the sun’s heat is attracted to the area, melting any ice there much faster.
Paul, I applaud you for your bravery in pursuit of communicating messages of environmental degradation to the world. I truly hope that your hard work helps speed up global climate change mitigation processes and preventative actions against sea ice melt.