Saturday, April 14, 2012

Iceberg, Straight Ahead

Herbert George Ponting (1870-1935), 'Grotto in an Iceberg', from the portfolio of Scott's Last Expedition, The British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, 5 January 1911. Carbon print transferred from the British Museum. (V&A Photographs Gallery)

On this 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic - the supposed unsinkable ship struck an iceberg before midnight on this day in 1912 - I wanted to share an image of an iceberg from another tragic expedition. It seems, whenever there's ice, tragedy ensues. What is chilling (pun intended?) is the fact that this photograph was taken just a year earlier.

On display in the Victoria & Albert Museum in their Photograph Gallery, the caption reads: Pointing was the official photographer for Captain Scott's tragic final expedition.* He endured sub-zero temperatures to document the beautiful but treacherous and uncharted Antarctic. In his book The Great White South(1921), Ponting recalled discovering this cavern: 'A fringe of long icicles hung at the entrance of the grotto and passing under these I was in the most wonderful place imaginable.'

The image, for me, is both wondrous and foreboding. An incredible natural formation, dominantly removed from civilization, the ship dwarfed in the distance by the frigid cavern.

So you can see the Titanic parallels.

*A journey to the south pole from which none of the explorers returned. Ponting, the photographer, had returned earlier to prepare his photographs and film from cinematograph for Captain Scott.

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