Posted on November 2, 2014
In 1775 Captain James Cook was overlooking South Georgia from his vessel HMS Resolution. In his journal he described his view as; ”Lands doomed by Nature to perpetual frigidness, never to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, whose horrible and savage aspect I have no words to describe”. He did however mention the enormous numbers of penguins and seals seen onshore. Shortly after hundreds of British and American hunters came to exploit these resources. It was the beginning of a new Klondike in the Southern Oceans.
More then a hundred years later the first Norwegian whalers arrived and settled in Grytviken. 22. December 1904 the first whale was caught and the first Norwegian oil generated golden years, and a biological nightmare started.
During a 60 year period a total of 175 250 whales were taken from the rich waters around South-Georgia. Oil was produced from meat and bones to be used in cosmetics, lubricants, soap and also for burning in lamps to name a few. Even glycerine was extracted and used for explosives.
Humpback whales were first targeted, and then larger animals like the Blue and Finn whales. After World War II the Humpback was extinct in the Southern Ocean and the other targeted species had dramatically low numbers. The whalers were struggling and went on to capture Elephant Seals during the last years. In the early 60s the Norwegian whalers went home and left Grytviken.
Despite the efforts to wipe out marine life around South Georgia the island still is paradise for any nature lover. All sheltered bays and harbours are teeming with life. Hundreds of thousands of King Penguins gather on the beaches and Fur seals and Elephant Seals fight for their spot on the shore. A truly fascinating place!
Posted on November 2, 2014
The Okavango Delta in Botswana, is the world’s largest inland delta. It is formed where the Okavango River empties onto a swamp in a closed drainage basin in the Kalahari Desert, where most of the water is lost to evaporation and transpiration instead of draining into the sea.
Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water irrigate the 15.000 km² area. Some floodwaters drain into Lake Ngami. The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana’s dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from kilometers around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
Sometimes called a ‘swamp’, the Okavango is anything but. Moving, mysterious, placid, gentle and beautiful, from a wide and winding channel it spreads through tiny, almost unnoticeable channels that creep away behind a wall of papyrus reed, into an ever expanding network of increasingly smaller passages. These link a succession of lagoons, islands and islets of various sizes, open grasslands and flooded plains in a mosaic of land and water.
In the lush indigenous forests of the delta and its islands, and along the floodplains spawned by this great marriage of water and sand, more than 400 species of birds flourish. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals –
warthog, mongoose, monkeys and tree squirrels to name just a few.
The Namibian government has presented plans to build a hydropower station in the Caprivi Region, which would regulate the Okavango’s flow to some extent. Environmentalists argue that this project could destroy most of the rich wildlife and plant life in the Delta.
Gorillas of Rwanda
Posted on November 2, 2014
The Volcanoes national park is situated in the northern parts of Rwanda. This 160km² national park protects the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, range of six extinct and three active volcanoes which straddles the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Volcanoes National Park is best known to the outside world as the place where for almost 20yrs the American primatologist Dian Fossey under took her pioneering studies of mountain gorilla behavior. It is largely thanks to Fossey’s single-mindedness that poaching was curtailed while there were still some gorillas to save. For her dedication, Fossey would pay the ultimate price still some gorillas still unsolved – murder at the Karisoke Research Centre in December 1985 is generally thought to have been the work of one of the many poachers with whom she crossed swords in her efforts to save her gorillas.
The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two most endangered apes in the world with less then 800 individuals remaining in the wild. Just over 300 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable NP in Uganda, while the remaining are found in the Virungas.
The Gorillas are generally gentle and shy. The mountain gorilla is highly social, and lives in relatively stable, cohesive groups held together by long-term bonds between adult males and females. Typically the groups consists of 2-40 individuals, averaging about 11. The groups are led by a dominant male, commonly called the silverback. The silverback serves as the chief leader and protector of the group.
The primary threat to mountain gorillas comes from forest clearance and degradation, as the region’s growing human population struggles to eke out a living. Mountain gorillas are not usually hunted for bushmeat, but they are frequently maimed or killed by traps and snares intended for other animals. They have been killed for their heads, hands, and feet, which are sold to collectors. Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been politically unstable and beleaguered by war and civil unrest over the last decades. These conflicts have had a very negative impact on the population. Several programs have been established to safeguard the last remaining mountain gorillas. Especially noteworthy is the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, which was established in 1991. During the last few years the population has been having a stable increase, but with such low numbers they still need extensive monitoring.
Further readings: http://gorillafund.org/
Current issues: http://savevirunga.com/
Posted on November 1, 2014
Passing through the Madidi Mosaic in Bolivia I witnessed one of the most biodiverse habitats on our planet. At the same time I saw new roads, burnt forests, logging, mining and coca plantations. All threatening this beauty. In addition, the government is planning a huge dam just outside of the national park, flooding enormous areas of indigenous settlements, about 2000 square kilometers, and species unknown to mankind.
No protected area on earth has a greater variety of life than the Madidi Mosaic. This fact alone demonstrates the urgency of protecting this area. Since the creation of the Madidi National Park in 1995 funding for international non governmental organizations to work in these areas has poured in. Unfortunately, these past ten years have demonstrated the increasing degradation of these areas.
The roads built by the lumber companies and governmental promises of employment in the sugar refinery, a senseless project that is currently being developed which involves burning thousands of hectares of the most biodiverse forests in the world, were the first motivators of migration into the area by colonizers. This is perhaps understandable, as many of these decisions were made in governmental offices before there was much awareness of the importance of the area. Also mining, petroleum extraction, are serious threats to this diverse ecosystem. As well as direct habitat loss these activities also come with an increase of new settlers and infrastructure.
Bolivia has among the most beautiful mountains in the world, rivaled only by the Himalayas. From altitudes well over six thousand meters, waters from these mountains work their way down to the Amazon. The waters form mountain lakes from which small streams trickle, some of which become rivers or form powerful waterfalls, moving on down through cloud forests, into subtropical forests, converging into navigable rivers which facilitate access into tropical forests. A few years ago a fifty year old plan to build a dam in the Madidi National Park was revived by politicians. Through the efforts of a few these plans have been stopped, but only temporarily.
Posted on November 1, 2014
When I first started thinking about Svalbard the only thing that went through my mind where the thought of missing the opportunity to see Polar bears in the wild. It was back in 2008 and people, at least some of us, where already seeing the changes happening to our planet as temperatures had started rising and the annual sea ice had started retreating. I knew I needed to get up there to see the King of the Arctic before it was too late. In March 2009 I went on a private expedition with my good friend Ole Jørgen Liodden to spend one week in the field. They speak about the “Arctic bug” and I was immediately bitten. Already on the plane back home I was planning my next trip. My passion for this Arctic wilderness have brought me back on 11 expeditions, I have spent almost 5 months on the archipelago and seen well over 100 Polar bears and I am still thinking about my next adventures in the Arctic realm. In the last years I have also made an effort to share my passion for the Arctic by opening an office and a fine art gallery in Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen. Together with my colleague Liodden I am running a travel company specializing in photography, called WildPhoto Travel. What other way to share my passion than to host photographers from around the world, so they can spread the word and share their love for this place when they return home?
Gateway to the north
Svalbard is the northernmost place in the world with a permanent settlement; with an airport, an international cruise ship harbour and over 2000 people living in the administration centre Longyearbyen. It is therefore quit obvious that Svalbard is the most accessible area in the high Arctic and also the preferred gateway into the region for many travellers. Compared to other places in the northern hemisphere, on the same latitude as Svalbard, the archipelago has a very mild climate. Normally, and even more so in the last years, the sea around Svalbard is completely ice free. The warm water currents from the south allows people to live comfortable lives here, when you in North American and Russia would struggle with extremes not suitable for living. Though the winter can be harsh, with temperatures in the low 30’s and howling winds, people have adapted in order to exploit the recourses in this area. In the first years these recourses were mainly whales, but today coal is the main source of income for the people living here. Both Norwegian and Russian companies are excavating the black gold. Strangely enough, and also quit ironic, the only coal power plant in Norway is located in the most fragile environments in the world, namely the Arctic settlement of Longyearbyen. In addition to mining, the main sources of income to Svalbard are research and tourism. Several cruise ships are visiting the islands during the summer, but the majority are taking part in so-called eco-tourism activities during the summer and the late winter months.
Many of my guests and fellow photographers ask me what is the best time to visit Svalbard. For me this is almost impossible to answer as nature has its own rhythm up here, and with it the light. The summer is intense with breeding birds and lots of wildlife activity, with the midnight sun lasting from 20th of April and until 21st of August. The winter is the extreme opposite with an island in hibernation as the sun disappears from Svalbard already 26th of October and it doesn’t return until 14th of February. On the edge of winter, especially late winter, the characteristic blue twilight is very evident. This magic light is worth a visit to the Arctic on its own. For obvious reasons the Arctic light is known for its high quality and diversity. Nowhere except in the equivalent southern hemisphere, do we see the range of light as we do in the Arctic. Not only do we see the extremes from midnight sun to polar night, but also rapid changes from heavy clouds clinging to the ragged coastline, suddenly clearing and ending up with blue skies within a couple of hours. I almost never set out to document a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a record shot. Light is always the main focus of my photography. It doesn’t always need to be much. A little subtle glow in the horizon can be extremely important for the picture, and perfect to portray the melancholic mood that I love to photograph. During the summer months I turn the day around, working in the night. Mid summer the light can be quit harsh even at midnight, but later in the season it is absolutely stunning. The autumn is beautiful with nice warm colours and stunning sunrise and sunsets. In September the sun disappears for a few hours, but it never leaves the horizon, sending warm colours to the arctic night sky. This is without doubt the time of light in Svalbard.
The Arctic might seem very demanding at first, but it is actually extremely giving if you are open to receive. Obviously most people travelling to the islands are hoping to see the Polar bear, as I did, but Svalbard is so much more and every time of the year has its own beauty. If you look closely there aren’t many species adapted to this harsh life. There are only two native land mammals; the Svalbard Reindeer and the Arctic fox. There is only one species of passerine, the Snowbunting but in the mountains you will also find the endemic Svalbard Ptarmigan. The seabirds are the most numerous with several high arctic specialities, the Sabine Gull, Ivory Gull, Northern Fulmar, Little Auk and Brünnicks Guillemot. In addition waders are rather common with the Red Phalarope and the Purple Sandpiper as the two highlights. The numbers of species are rather low compared to any other place in Europe and the world, but the marine life is comparably rich. Several species of whales frequently feed in the nutrient rich water of the coast, including the magnificent Blue Whale. Especially during the last decade we have observed that the whales are returning to the archipelago. On pretty much every expedition we have Fin Whales, Mink Whales, Humbacks, Belugas and even White-sided Dolphins sometimes. This is great news as they were all hunted to extinction over a hundred years ago by Dutch whales. Even the once numerous Bowhead whales have been observed after being completely missing since early 1900. The same story counts for the Walrus, thought be extinct from Svalbard in the early 1900’s, but now returning in good numbers and reappearing on the historical haul out places along the west coast. Ringed seal and Bearded seal are quit common in the fjords, while Harp seals and sometimes Hooded seal are found near the pack ice on the north coast. Many of these animals are not only charismatic and numerous, but also rather easy to approach, which is perfect for photography.
King of the Arctic
Obviously, most people travelling to Svalbard are hoping to see the Polar bear, King of the Arctic. In many ways this charismatic mammals has become the symbol of a healthy Arctic ecosystem. Obviously it has also become an icon of the region and a symbol of a changing environment and warmer climate. As mentioned, the fox and the reindeer are the only two land mammals on Svalbard because the Polar bear is actually considered a marine mammal, as it spends the majority of its life on the sea ice. Here they find their main food source, seals, and also potential mates. When it comes to the den and the birth of cubs this is done on land in the steeper slopes. Here they find the perfect spot with the right amount of snow, the right angle according to the sun and in safe distance to the big male bears. Historically the eastern part of the archipelago, and especially the protected islands, has been traditional den sites. On some of these, almost a hundred dens have been recorded but in the last years, with the lack of sea ice in the autumn, the numbers have gone down dramatically. In one of the most important islands only two dens were recorded in the spring of 2014. Still the Polar bear numbers of Svalbard and Frans Josef Land, which is considered the same population, is rather stable with about 3000 animals. However, if the ice conditions don’t change dramatically we will most probably see the effect in a couple of years. Without doubt, the Polar bear is one of my favourite animals. Like most bears they are extremely charismatic, very curious and also slightly dangerous. I have had over 100 encounters, most of them from a ship but also from zodiacs and on land. In my experience each and every one of these individuals have been unique. Even if all Polar bears are curious by nature, most of them will avoid people or at least don’t bother getting close to people. They are basically to busy doing their own thing. Then you have the ones that will approach humans, most likely because they are curious of the smell, the sounds and the appearance of this two-legged stranger in their territory. Of course with such a powerful creature curiosity can lead to dangerous encounters between man and beast, but my experience is that these bears usually keep their distance and will avoid any conflict if you tell them off. However, travelling in their territory one should come prepared with the necessary repellent, i.e. flare gun, and protection.
So what will the future bring for the Polar bear and its kingdom? Without a doubt we are seeing some dramatic changes in the Arctic. Not only in regards of the sea ice, which is retreating, but also looking at the biological diversity in the polar region. In the last couple of years we have seen how new species have invaded the archipelago and the effects of this will be evident in a few years time. New species of birds, like the Meadow pipit and Lapland bunting, will probably not do much harm. The biting mosquitoes will obviously be a pain as they become more numerous, but they can also affect the breeding success of birds and also reindeer. However, the most fragile environment is without a doubt the marine ecosystem. In September 2013 we saw the arrival of mackerel, and with it pods of Orcas. The mackerel is a potential threat to other specialized arctic fish species as they feed on eggs and larvae of these. The arrival of mackerel is just one of many changes in the oceans around Svalbard, but it is very easy to observe and therefore a good example of what is happening. I wish I could say that “we need to stop this process”, but I am afraid it is already too late. The volume of sea ice measured by satellites in the summer, when it reaches its smallest, has shrunk so fast that scientists say it’s now in a ‘death spiral’. What we need to do now is to adapt to these changes and take the consequences. What we should do as a courtesy to the world, and the Arctic in particular, is to prevent further exploitation of the Arctic now that the absence of sea ice makes drilling for oil possible in the Barents Sea. The irony of such an activity would be unbearable for us and for future generations. #savethearctic
Photographer giving back
Posted on October 31, 2014
In English below
I 2009 startet jeg et prosjekt i Bolivia i samarbeid med den ideelle organisasjonen Boliviafamilien. Denne er lokalisert i Sandnes i Rogaland, men har siden den spede starten i 1981 bygget opp 5 barnehjem og 19 dagsenter som til sammen gir over 1000 barn et trygt alternativ i et av Sør-Amerikas fattigste land.
Min opprinnelig plan var ambisiøs, men på grunn av uventede vendinger i min karriere ble jeg nødt til å kansellere prosjektet etter to lengre reiser i dette mangfoldige landet. Som en takk for den hjelpen jeg fikk av Bolivifamilien og de båndene jeg knyttet til Bolivia har jeg bestemt meg for å gi tilbake på den eneste passende måten.
I løpet av november og desember i år vil jeg tilby 10 utvalgte bilder fra Bolivias mangfoldige natur som Fine Art print i et begrenset opplag og til en svært redusert pris. Jeg håper at dette kan generere salg slik at jeg kan gi noe tilbake til Boliviafamiliens barn.
Bildene som tilbys vil bli printet som Fine Art print på Epson Hot Press papir i A3 størrelse uten ramme. De vil bli signert og nummeret 1-30 for hvert motiv.
Prisen på bildet vil være 1500.- der 500.- vil dekke kostnader med produksjonen og logistikk. Resterende 1000.- vil gå direkte til Bolivias barn. Porto vil komme i tillegg.
Finn ditt favorittbilde under og ta kontakt nå for å sikre deg et bildet i begrenset opplag før jul!
En stor takk rettes for øvrig til Stavanger Foto og Rammehjørnet for hjelp med produksjon av salgsutstillingen.
In 2009 I started a project in Bolivia in collaboration with the Norwegian NGO Boliviafamilien. This organisation is located in Sandnes, Norway but is running 5 children’s homes and nineteen day care centres, offering a safe alternative for more then 1000 children in need.
My initial plan was a grand one, but due to unexpected turns in my career I had to abort after two trips to this magnificent country. As a token of my appreciation for the help I got from Boliviafamilien and also the connection I got with the people of Bolivia I have decided to give back in the only way I see appropriate.
During a period of two months I will offer 10 of my images from the diverse nature of Bolivia as limited edition Fine Art prints to a very reduced price. I hope this will generate sales so I can give something back to the children under care of Boliviafamilien.
The images offered will be printed on Epson Hot Press paper in A3 size only, signed and numbered in a series of 30 each. The prints will not be framed.
The price will be 1500NOK, where 500NOK will be covering the cost of production and logistics. The remaining 1000NOK will go directly to the children of Bolivia. Shipping cost will be added.
Find your preferred image below and order now to get it before Christmas!