Polar bear

Nuclear Ninety North

Eclipse of the Midnight Sun

August 1st, 2008


Polar Ice Panorama

Polar Ice Panorama

2008-07-25 16:01 UTC 89°54.74'N 11°17.04'E
Scroll page to view panorama.

I found the far-field polar icescape to be as alien an environment as I'd ever experienced. There is a total chaos to it, amplified by the fact that it is dynamic—what you see today will never be seen again—open water leads appear and close, pressure ridges heave and collapse, and the icescape shifts and remakes itself incessantly.

This panorama, taken from the porthole of our cabin on the ship after returning from adventures on the ice at the North Pole, was assembled from 55 images taken through a Nikon 500mm f/8 catadioptric “mirror lens” (with an equivalent focal length of 750mm on a 24×36mm film camera). All exposures were handheld, and some suffered from vibration, blurring due to warm air leaving the porthole, and other vicissitudes of real world photography: the thing about the North Pole is that you don't get any reshoots; what you get it what you got, and you'd better make the best of it. In that spirit, I winnowed down the seventy-odd images in the original panorama set into a minimal overlapping sequence with the best sharpness. There are still some compromises, as I'm sure you'll notice if you examine this image closely. It'll have to do: I'm not heading back to the North Pole to try for an incremental improvement.

One comment about my identifying this picture as having been taken at the “North Pole”: if you look at the GPS tag on the image, you'll see that the camera location was about five nautical miles from the North Pole at the time the images comprising this panorama were taken. But the polar ice pack is in constant motion, and the ship had not moved from the time it stopped with the geographic North Pole located within the ship. The landscape you see here was at the Pole, but about twelve hours before I took these pictures. I hope you'll excuse me for calling it polar; it's close enough for this low latitude denizen.

by John Walker
March 28th, 2009

This document is in the public domain.