Saturday, December 30, 2006

More To Come

Dear Friends, I`m travelling in Chile, on the slow route home. I have many great photos yet to post so watch this space sometime after January 5th, 2007. Art and I took many photos in the Gerlache and Neumayer Passages. The day was quite different from the brilliant, cloudless day when we arrived. This one was misty and dramatic. I´ll get to it soon. DAVID

Friday, December 22, 2006

Summer Solstice - Leaving Palmer

We are leaving Palmer Station today, Saturday, December 23, for our four day boat ride on the Laurence M. Gould back to Punta Arenas, Chile. A bittersweet ending, leaving this beautiful place. However, I got what I came for, which was information on how the ice looks. I feel that with the molds and so many photographs I have learned so much. Now I can go home, digest, and start to make my cast glass sculpture.

I expect to add a few postings to this blog as I dig out photos and clean them up with Photoshop. (Not to enchance them, so much as to make them more realistic than what the electronic camera thought it saw.) Hang on for a few weeks until I get home.

Thank you, everybody, for your support and comments. This has been so fun and I feel invigorated by all your compliments and questions.

Please email me at


Ice Cave

On old Palmer, which is now an island, due to the retreat of the glacier, and the former site of Palmer Station, there is both an ice arch and also an ice cave. We posted pictures of the ice arch before. This time we couldn't get to it because the elephant seals had taken it over. Fifteen or more had come inside, and a few were in the cave itself.

A few weeks ago, Jeff found the entrance to the ice cave under the snow and dug it out. I had seen pictures and was eager to get back to Old Palmer but circumstances delayed us for a while.

The entrance is small and we had to crawl in. You couldn't stand up, but what a scene. The whole thing is glowing blue green ice, floor ceiling and walls. It has indented arches forming a long tunnel, maybe 20 or 24 meters. The floor was lightly frozen over some water, which I found when I sat down.

Christina is the person in charge of all the long running experiments, mostly in Terra Lab. She has been doing time-lapse studies of the environment. Last one was of the Gould leaving, in several thousand pictures. I suggested a picture of my ice sculpture melting and evaporating.


In a land without green plants the rocks become stark, the lichens vivid. Especially as the snow melts off the glacier rubble, it exposes beauty in the patterns of lichens, moss and the rocks themselves.

I have been in love with rocks for years, but here they are so prominent. In my proposal to the NSF I requested that I be allowed to cast the local rock if I decided that the it was more interesting than the ice. In the end, although I love the ice, the variety of textures is not all that great. After ten molds we had most of them. I asked and was granted persmission to spread the silicone mold material on sea-washed rocks next to the station. The resulting rubber mold is spectacular, although I didn't get to see it for long as it was snatched away to send home.

Art has the incriminating photo of me spreading the raw goop on the rocks. I felt kind of bad doing it, even with permission since this environment is so pristine, the international park, as it were. But the silicone performed like a champ and completely peeled off the rock without a trace. I spent a few minutes picking up the few pieces, but there is no remaining evidence that anyting happened there, to my relief. I had visions of spending the last two days of my stay at Palmer Station rubbing moling compound off the rocks. Fortunately that was not the case.

No post of mine from Antarctica would be complete without pictures of ice. We got the boat out and found some gorgeous pieces in Arthur Harbor. This piece was clear ice, but even underwater, you can see the facets, veils and bubbles.

One last blue ice glacier bit.

Two minutes of glorious sunset on the night before solstice at midnight. Orange light on the blue ice.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Glass Casting in Antarctica

I figured out how to save the glacier! I'm going to turn it into glass. I actually managed to make a small glass sculpture in the Palmer Station lab using exactly the process I had proposed with the ice molds. Over the past few weeks, Art and I have taken several silicone molds off of ice surfaces from pieces we have found in the water around the station. I melted some paraffin wax into different silicone textures and built up a small wax model for the glass using three textures from the ice.

After embedding the wax in a dental casting plaster, I melted out the wax in a small lab bench furnace at about 200ºC.

Here is my studio on the mash and grind deck of Palmer Bio building. We put the kiln go outside so as not to smoke everyone our during the burnout process. I was worried that the weather might affect the firing temperature, but it didn't.

Here is the mold with chunks of glass I had brought from Oakland, melting at nearly 800ºC. The glass is a very light copper/cobalt blue, with about a thousandth percent colorant, very light.

Ken setting the temperature on the controller. This controller was not ideal since it wouldn't turn down slower than 1ºC per minute. I wanted the high temperature cooling to be less than half that so I babied it for several hours while it went through that critical phase.

Here is the piece when I broke it out of the mold. Notice the two textures. One was the smooth faceted ice and the other side was the snowy, granular ice. The "nose" is a third slightly wrinkly texture.

Zenobia and Kerry organized an art show in the bar at Palmer. I put in some of my ice pieces, including this tall one I have shown before in "Ice Studies."

The top photo is after an hour out of the freezer container. The second, several hours later as the sun was setting. The ice broke up internally around the crystals, which had also formed the facets. The afternoon was warm enough so the ice started to melt. It lasted just about exactly 24 hours before it tumbled to the deck.

I also put in one of the silicone molds. I wonder if anybody got it, but it represented an absence of form, absence of a sculpture, maybe the absence of the glacier. Several guys were fascinated by the silicone, since it's flexible and strong.

Above is another picture of my glass casting taken in the declining light of the day at about 11PM. Below is another of our "Ice Studies," when we were in the container with the photo lights. This one used one blue light to accentuate the clear form.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Between Breaks/Aerobatic Macrofauna - Art Quinn

As you know from David's last post, my extreme age necessitates certain pauses, expecialy after slogging through the long hours demanded by a slavedriver like him! He made me get up to photograph these Chinstrap Penguins. They circled our inflatable, shooting through the water, then bursting up out of the surface. If you inspect the wave above the penguin, you will notice that the left ring is the other penguin's exit spot, the right its entry, even detailing the beak on the far right.

Here are the Chinstraps again, but underwater. In the past some of their jumps have landed them in the boats here at Palmer. They jump out immediately.

It is hard to imagine why they have evolved to breed and waddle around on land considering their expertise in the water. This is a picture of Penguin Heaven, with cloud-like snow.

Across the straits from the Penguins is Elephant Rocks. This is some mega-macro fauna. We happened to be nearby when these two got into it.

The glacier in the background photographed with a closeup through an iceberg recently calved. We got this shot from our Zodiac.

This is detail from the same berg as above, but very close. The inverted triangular piece of ice was about 15" wide at its base.