Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sleeping with mountains

The past few days have been spent largely away from camp, with skidoo trips South from Explorers Cove, across uninterrupted miles of sea ice towards the Herbertson Glacier where we're in the process of melting a new dive hole. The environment is remote, pristine, and dramatically different from the landscape surrounding our New Harbor camp.

I couldn't imagine a more spectacular or peaceful place to pitch a tent (this is it, on the right-hand side of the photograph), let alone fall asleep and wake to.

Getting the dive hole started has not been a straight-forward process. Moments away from breaking through the 18 - 21 feet-thick ice into water - six drill flights down -  the flights froze into the slush and quickly became immovable. So, it was back to the drawing board to come up with a recovery strategy. Fortunately, this is a resourceful team of highly-experienced men and women for whom no task seems too daunting. It wasn't long before a plan of action was decided on and implemented - and the 'melt' is back on track again. Exercises such as this one away from home require round-the-clock monitoring, so we're scheduled to be out there in pairs for eight-twelve hour shifts in order to keep an eye on things. We have to check the Hotsy (a large coiled copper immersion heater) every four-six hours; routine-wise, it's not unlike having a hungry newborn in the family. 

Travel to and from the site is exhilarating, but tough on the body. Our old skidoos are noisy, heavy vehicles to drive and the terrain, hard, bumpy and unforgiving. But, oh my goodness - you wouldn't believe the beauty. 

Sam and I packed a selection of Katherine's and Christina's porcelain pieces up before heading out yesterday, hoping we'd find some time to photograph them, perhaps play them out there in the wilderness. We lined the carry/kit-box on the back of the skidoo with extra jackets, bear paw mitts and fleece garments, wrapped the bells and wee Euclidian shapes in layers of tissue paper and bubble wrap, then held our breath hoping they'd survive the hard drive intact. They did, and how exquisite and congruent the ensuing dialogue between porcelain and place... During the hours between Hotsy duty and sleep, we introduced these fragile pieces to a waiting wonderland - a veritable theatre of visual and auditory treats opened up. Time simultaneously slowed right down and accelerated during those absorbing few hours of filming and recording.

It's an incredible privilege to be collaborating like this with such stellar people (both here - in situ - and further afield). At times like this, work is grit, sweat, dance, journey and reflection. 

Rumi (1207 - 1273) wrote - 

Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don't try to end it.
Be your note.
I'll show you how it's enough. 

Last night, on the shin of the ice-covered mountain, I swear I heard a reed flute playing. 


  1. Hello Clara - this time next week I will be on my way back to the superarid Namib to join the inaugural Steering Committee meeting for the first sector-driven strategic environmental assessment in the world. A long time coming, but it is finally happening!! Finally the uranium industry is looking to take some ownership of the impacts it is having on the fragile Namib desert. On Saturday I will be sleeping out under the stars in warm desert night with big sky and barking ghekos and Cape Eagle Owls for company... So I will listen. The winter winds will have quietened by then, and so all should be gentle and quiet. Except perhaps the thump of drilling rigs - which I dread to hear. There are sands in those dunes which ring and gong: perhaps I will record some for you.

    Take care and have an awesome time. Big love to you. Pip xo

  2. Hi Pip - you have worked so hard towards making this happen. Congratulations - it's a real point of arrival. If you're able to, please do collect sounds of the desert sands ringing and gonging? These different voices are all parts of the same Earth Song, not so? Thank you +++. Firm feet to you XX