The 2012 expedition

Within four months, we witnessed a total eclipse and erupting volcano in different parts of the tropics, sunbathed in Antarctica and were obstructed by thickening sea-ice in the Arctic. A few hours in one of the remotest villages in the world and several days in an Amazonian refuge gave a taste of lifestyles being challenged both by an intruding external world and by variations in physical conditions away from “normal”.  Add to these several chance encounters with polar bears, musk ox, communities of penguins, cheetah, lions, elephant, herds of buffaloes, schools of dolphins and and troops of monkeys. Throughout all of these experiences, there is a strong sense of change in the air, earth and oceans.

This site aims to capture some of this feeling and portray the evolving connections between polar and tropical regions.

Tropical and polar conditions seem quite different but there may be surprising links and even similarities.  Patterns and processes in the ocean, ice and atmosphere increasingly involve energy flows between polar and tropical regions.

Many human communities in these regions are remote, both physically and economically.

For the few regions that support tropical glaciers, travel between these two extremes can be very short.  With the spread of expedition ships and remote ecotourism ventures, sequential journeys to both tropical and polar regions are readily organized.

The following galleries and pages present the photography of Karen Lunney and commentaries by Peter Best on short visits to 10 countries during 2011-12.  The selected images are divided into several sections.

Celestial phenomena are an ever-present fascination whether viewed through the dust of an African evening or the mists of the Circumpolar Convergence zone.   Auroras such as the Northern Lights are rarely seen outside polar and sub-polar regions and are spectacular when solar activity is particularly strong.  Chance plays its part in seeing such unusual events.  A total eclipse on the Coral Coast of Australia was not visible at our viewing point until the very moment of totality.

In polar regions, the physical environment is dominated by landscapes of ice, the power of glaciers, the changing shapes and types of icebergs and importance of sea-ice.  Coastal pathways and the dynamics of earth processes have dominated where communities can safely settle and flourish. Waterfalls are a fascination and source of myths and traditions.  Interruptions to normal ways of living are often caused by extreme weather events such as flood and severe storms.

The physical environment sets the context for the various communities (both wildlife and human) in each region, imposing constraints and offering opportunities for sedentary and migratory species.

The polar and sub-polar wildlife include the very large and essentially solitary animals such as polar bears that travel vast distances hunting on the sea-ice to the astonishing major communities of penguins of various types that populate particularly supportive locations during breeding seasons.

For tropical and sub-tropical wildlife, the solitary animal, family groups and migratory herds have to adapt to the vagaries of climate, water availability and inter-species competition.

For remote human communities, portraits of a different type of life suggest a time of great change.  Cultural aspects such as homes, art and trade are quite distinct and respond to their particular and changing conditions.  As cultural sanctuaries, these communities struggle to survive a rapidly changing physical environment and the benefits and dangers of becoming more connected to the main technological world.  Satisfying the demands of industrialised countries to improve local economic conditions may have unintended consequences in remote jungles, thawing tundra and shrinking sea-ice.

The general conditions in each region are described in the Introduction, with a brief view of climate processes as might be readily apparent from space and now being discovered by remote sensing and extensive observations in these relatively poorly-investigated areas.  The various wildlife and human communities rely heavily on the resilience of groups to rapid changes and transitions.

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