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Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault back in the News

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Global Seed Vault, located the top of the world, on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, is back in the news – for the first time seeds are being taken from the bank for one of the reasons it was created – to supply and safeguard seeds in a time of war. Al Jazeera reports that “as Aleppo gene back built to safeguard global food supplies is at risk, researchers request frozen seeds from Svalbard”. Although Aleppo lies within the famous “fertile crescent“, it’s also in the thick of the Syrian war. Svalbard, despite some political shenanigans between Norway and Russia, remains calm, with more polar bears than people, and very cold.
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Hans Island Debacle Nearing A Solution?

Hans Island
Our ship approaches a smooth dome of barren rock, worn clean by several millennia of glacial endeavor, in a lonely Arctic waterway, farm from the nearest human settlement. It’s July 2009, and I’m board the Greenpeace ship Arctic sunrise, on a four-month expedition with glacialogists and climatalogists on Greenland’s glaciers – and how they’re reacting to climate change. I made some lovely images while on board, too, and here’s a blog about Fata Morgana – Mirages in Nares Strait.

Apart from a tiny weather station, there’s feck all here – yet Hans Island has spent decades at the centre of a sometimes surreal territorial dispute.

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Book Cover: A Book of Migrations

The Book of Migrations by Rebecca Solnit

In all my years as a writer, I’ve written many book reviews. But I’ve never before reviewed a book that uses one of my photographs as its cover. I’m talking about The Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland, by Rebecca Solnit, which has been a joy to read, and an honour to become connected with. I was unaware of Solnit’s work until May 24th of this year, when I read her insightful article the Strauss-Kahn affair, colonisation and the IMF: Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite. That afternoon, I received an email from Bob Bhamra, of Verso Books, asking me if he could use my image of the Burren for a new editon of The Book of Migrations. Serendipity. We cut a deal.
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Arctic Tern, Angelic

Arctic Tern, sterna paradisea, hovering near the dog yard Ny Alesund, Svalbard. Arctic terns migrate more than any other species bird – up to 35,000km per year for some birds, as the travel to Antarctica and back, and can enjoy two polar summers. The terns nest in the tundra in the scientific research centre of Ny Alesund, where they lay eggs, and tend to attack passersby in self-defence.
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Tulip Mania: Photographing People Photographing Flowers


Woman in blue jeans photographing flowers at the Keukenhof


Photographing flowers and undwear at the Keukenhof

Photographing People, Photographing flowers. An ugly, and probably mildly tasteless set of images, where I photograph people photographing flowers, and often show off their backsides along the way. Images made on April 2011 at the Keukenhof tulip show at Lisse, Netherlands.

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Urban Ocean: Gulf of Mexico

Transocean Development Driller rigs in squall at Deepwater Horizon disaster site.

Transocean Development Driller rigs in squall at Deepwater Horizon disaster site.

It has taken not much more than half a century to turn the Gulf of Mexico into an Urban Ocean, dotted with 27,000 abandoned wells, and nearly 4,000 active platforms, interconnected by an incredible 40,000km of pipelines. At sea, no matter where you are in the northern Gulf of Mexico, you can see the blinking lights of an oil platform, a small steel city unto itself, or perhaps a rusting ghost town. The Deepwater Horizon disaster, in April 2010 drew attention to this industrialisation of the Gulf, and hinted to the public the existence a scarred landscape that exists just over the horizon from the shorelines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. In September 2010, I worked on board a Greenpeace ship carrying out research to measure the impact of the oil spill, from where I got to observe the oil rigs drafted into the Deepwater Horizon site dwarfed by powerful rainstorms, and the wildlife that still prevails – the hummingbirds, the sperm whales, the flying fish and the powerful rainstorms.

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Masters of the Irish Harp

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin

A recent addition to Dublin’s low-rise skyline and spanning the Irish capital’s River Liffey, the harp-like silhouette of Santiago Caletrava’s Samuel Beckett Bridge is a technical marvel bordering in Celtic Kitsch. These qualities attracted me and my camera – even to the point of doing long picture exposures on cold snowy nights. It’s paid off, with several of my images of the bridge now being used by Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, for a Lyric FM CD compilation of Irish harp music.

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Herbs in the window of abandoned Herbalist Shop, Rethymno, Crete

The Herbalist

Herbs in the window of abandoned Herbalist Shop, Rethymno, Crete

Herbs in the window of abandoned Herbalist Shop

An abandoned herbalist’s shop in Rethymno, Crete. It was owned, apparently, by Panajiotis and or Dimitrios Kontogianis – at least that’s what it says on the packets of dried herbs in the window. Other fragments of clues – a faded, stained photograph of the proprieter, leftover belongings. What happened here? Where did they go?

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97 Minutes in Barentsburg

Bust of Lenin in Barentsburg, Svalbard

Bust of Lenin in Barentsburg, Svalbard

I am staring at a forest, a painting of a forest. A door opens in the forest, and two men climb out. They close the door, then walk away.

The forest, or rather the painting of a forest, is in the Russian coal-mining town of Barentsburg, about 1200km from the North Pole, one of three inhabited settlements in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

There are no trees in Svalbard. But there are pictures of trees, billboard size, to remind the miners of the forests back home.

My visit to Barentsburg was short, far too short. I only stayed 97 minutes. I am not proud of this. I arrived as a tourist, and didn’t want to leave. At least not soon.

I took no time to make new friends, gained no valuable insights into what it is like to live there. I didn’t hit the bar, like some of the other visitors, to sample the vodka. I didn’t even buy a Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev matryoshka doll.

I did see a metal sunflower, a homemade spaceship, an awful lot of kittiwakes and two men walking out of a painting of a forest.

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Martha Van Der Bly: Repulsion

Martha Van Der Bly

For a couple of years now, actress and filmmaker Martha Van Der Bly and myself have been threatening to team up and work on a photographic project together. Great idea, but hindered by our never being in the same location for more than five minutes. Back in April, we spent two Sunday afternoons developing some ideas…

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The Things I Found On Bull Island

Armchair on Bull Island © Dave Walsh 2009

Bull Island is a new world, less than 200 years old. Grown from a mere sandback after Captain William Bligh (of the Bounty) made his 1801 proposal to stop the silting of the Liffey by constructing of the Bull Wall, the island is today a UNESCO biosphere reserve – a protected area that by definition is supposed to demonstrate a balanced relationship between man and nature.
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Fata Morgana: Arctic Mirage

Fata Morgana on Joe Island, Nares Straight, north west Greenland

There is something unnerving about watching reality bend before
one’s eyes. There is what one “knows” to be true, and that which
one can see through a telephoto lens or binoculars – with Fata Morgana,
the two are difficult to reconcile. Something is happening on the
horizon. Icebergs twist and change shape, move, disappear, elongate.
Islands rise from the sea. The earth warps.

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Greenland Self Governance

_MG_0357_greenland_flag_mural_500.jpg

I was fortunate enough to be in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland on June 21st 2009- midsummer’s day, when Greenland celebrates its National Day. There was further cause for celebration – following a referendum last year, Greenland has decided on ‘self governance’ and on June 21st moved from ‘home rule’ to a new state of autonomy from Denmark. Here’s some of my images…

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