Monday, December 14, 2009


Ross Island is mounted now, after some abortive attempts to add rocks. There are many steep slopes that are mostly bare of ice and snow, showing up in photographs as black marks on the white sheet draped over the island. But my various approaches to stitching rocks onto the already complete summit of Mt Erebus were just awful, and unpicking left me with a fraying fluffy volcano. Finally I just cut off the mountain top and remade it from scratch as it had been originally.

I much prefer my imaginary version of Ross Island, a pale unblemished illusion, to my clumsy attempts at realistic representation. Mounted, between the dark open sea and the towering ice shelf, my imaginary Antarctic Island floats like a fantasy land, which it has always been for more people than can ever visit it.

So with that piece finished, I am tackling Antarctica itself. It's taken almost four whole blankets to cut out each 1000m contour. Here's my map pattern before I cut out the sea level and shelf ice contour. It's a little over a metre in diameter.

I only have the two highest contours of the ice dome at the centre of the continent left to cut, and that is where I will begin my embroidery, where the ice is over four kilometers thick, blanketing mountains that are taller than the Himalayas with a deceptively smooth surface. Meanwhile, I have been attaching isolated peaks and islands that stick out above the ice around the edges. See if you can spot a small peak pinned onto the blankets below.

As accompaniment, I'm reading Roland Huntford's controversial book, Scott and Amundsen. It puzzles me that in every single non-fiction book on Antarctica, the eulogising of Scott's tragic second place so utterly trumps Amundsen's efficient first. I have been desperate to find out more about Amundsen and his journey, and Huntford is providing all the detail I could want. I understand that Huntford's analysis of Scott cannot be taken at face value given the widespread and vehement opposition, but I have come across no criticism of his representation of Amundsen (who seems to be as unlikable a man as he was admirable in his systematic approach to polar exploration).

1 comment:

Carol said...

It has been fascinating watching you progress in your ideas and methods of representing fossils and now Antarctica. I know you will end up with a stunning piece of art.