Stories

Bruxelles est Charlie: photos

Bruxelles est Charlie

Bruxelles est Charlie

On Sunday, January 11th 2015, I joined 20,000 other residents of Brussels of all creed, origin and colour for a peaceful march in the name of tolerance and freedom of speech, following the appalling carnage carried out in Paris – starting with the Charlie Hebdo killings. Here’s the images.
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Iceberg, Antarctica

Protecting the Southern Ocean

Iceberg, Antarctica

Iceberg, Antarctica


As I write, the dozens of delegates attending this years meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) should be sound asleep in their Hobart hotel rooms, if they’re not out tasting Tasmania’s finest wines in the the Salamanca neighbourhood.

Until the end of the month, the officials from 24 countries – plus the EU – will consider a range of issues, the most notorious of which is the long-delayed establishment of marine reserves in the Ross Sea and in the waters of East Antarctica. I can’t tell you what’s happening at the meeting so far, as CCAMLR meets behind closed doors. The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition is the only non-governmental organisation representing civil society at CCAMLR – but my colleagues in the room are prohibited from reporting on proceedings until they have formally ended. We will know if the news is good or bad by the end of October.

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The Slaney and the World

The Crossabeg Book: The Slaney and the World by Dave Walsh

For all the travelling I’ve done, it’s always good to come home. I am writing these words 50m away from the River Slaney, in the south east of Ireland, with a a copy of Crossabeg: The Parish and its People (Vol 2) waiting for me. And I’m honoured to be featured in the book. When my neighbour here, Alice Devine, one of the team who put the book together asked me to write something about my travels, I thought the best way was to show how my upbringing in Crossabeg provided the foundation for everything that followed – including my trips to the Arctic and the Antarctica. For those of you not able to get your hands on the book, here’s what I wrote:

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Camping in Bear Country: Slough Creek Trail, Yellowstone

Slough Creek Trail, Yellowstone National Park,
Slough Creek Trail, on the way to backcountry camping, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This photograph was taken on a hot, hot day at the end of July. It’s usually better to hike earlier in the day, but the relative flatness of the trail, plus some logistics we had to take care of meant a late start for our first attempt at backcountry camping. The trail heads through beautiful natural meadows, and passes distant fly fishermen focussed on persuading curious trout to come ashore.
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Ms. Moose and the Porcupine Quills

Moose encounter, Glen Creek, Yellowstone National Park

We almost bumped into Ms. Moose on the way back from Electric Peak – she, and her offspring, Junior, were foraging on the banks of Glen Creek. We came within a few metres of them before stopping still, and backing off a bit. The two moose took off out of the water, and onto the trail ahead of us. We gave them a few minutes to get ahead, then moved slowly along the path. After 50m or so, we spotted Ms. M at the other side of the narrow creek, alone. Junior was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she took off, and made to head us off on the path. We retreated, and ended up the path, farther back then when we had first encountered. She followed us, quickly but not aggressively, with a sense of purpose and authority, and didn’t get too close. When we reached open country, she escorted us no further. After a short pause, she made a quick turn and galloped away down the path. After a few minutes, we followed, even more tentatively than before. Neither Ms. Moose or Junior were anywhere to be seen; the path then opened out into flat, sagebrush country, with willow bushes on the right. We kept a close watch, but we didn’t see the moose family again.

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Keeping Bears at Bay in Yellowstone

Avoiding bears in Yellowstone

Morning light illuminates how we keep our food and backpacks away away from the rain and the bears – a horizontal pole, high above the ground, with backpacks and food strung high above the claws of any curious bear. Us humans, however, sleep in the tent, on the ground with cans of pepper spray for company. Beside the Gardner River, on the Sportsmans Lake Trail, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
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The Breakfast Bear

Black Bear, Blacktail Plateau Drive
Black bear, on the Blacktail Plateau Drive in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. We came across this black bear munching on Bearberry Honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata – aka twinberry) early one morning. Although we sat there for several minutes watching the bear consume breakfast, we were completely ignored until it decided that it eaten all it could reach, and crossed the dirt road, giving us one straight glare before heading into the bushes in search of seconds.

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A Micronation Once Again: The Saltee Islands

Atlantic Puffin, Saltee Islands, Wexford

Off the coast of southeast Ireland lie the two small Saltee Islands. Their simple, low-slung landscapes, four or five kilometres of the Wexford fishing village of Kilmore Quay belie their layers of history, folklore and bizarre stories. On approach, there are few warnings of the extent of the islands’ abundant wildlife, but more than 220 species of birds live, nest, or migrate through the Saltees, including gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins, shearwaters, razorbills and guillemots, all completely unfussed by human visitors. Curious grey seals eat fish scraps from the hands of fishermen, and stalk daytrippers who walk the cliffs – their big doe eyes staring up plaintively from the azure waters below.

Nothing is ordinary here. So I didn’t write anything ordinary.

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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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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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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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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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Hellfire Club, Dublin

To Hell or Howth: The Hostel of the Red God

This is an expanded version of an article I had published in 2006, as part of the programme for Conor McPherson’s play The Seafarer, currently being staged at the National Theatre in London. I was asked to write a piece dealing with the mythology of Howth and places in the Dublin landscape. I soon discovered a sinister relationship between some of these places…
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