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TED2011

Camille Seaman: Haunting photos of polar ice

Filmed:

Photographer Camille Seaman shoots icebergs, showing the world the complex beauty of these massive, ancient chunks of ice. Dive in to her photo slideshow, "The Last Iceberg."

- Photographer
TED Senior Fellow Camille Seaman photographs big ice and big clouds. Full bio

As an artist,
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connection is very important to me.
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Through my work I'm trying to articulate
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that humans are not separate from nature
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and that everything is interconnected.
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I first went to Antarctica almost 10 years ago,
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where I saw my first icebergs.
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I was in awe.
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My heart beat fast, my head was dizzy,
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trying to comprehend what it was that stood in front of me.
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The icebergs around me
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were almost 200 feet out of the water,
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and I could only help but wonder
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that this was one snowflake
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on top of another snowflake,
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year after year.
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Icebergs are born
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when they calve off of glaciers
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or break off of ice shelves.
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Each iceberg has its own individual personality.
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They have a distinct way
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of interacting with their environment
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and their experiences.
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Some refuse to give up
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and hold on to the bitter end,
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while others can't take it anymore
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and crumble in a fit of dramatic passion.
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It's easy to think, when you look at an iceberg,
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that they're isolated,
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that they're separate and alone,
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much like we as humans sometimes view ourselves.
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But the reality is far from it.
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As an iceberg melts,
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I am breathing in
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its ancient atmosphere.
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As the iceberg melts,
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it is releasing mineral-rich fresh water
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that nourishes many forms of life.
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I approach photographing these icebergs
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as if I'm making portraits of my ancestors,
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knowing that in these individual moments
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they exist in that way
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and will never exist that way again.
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It is not a death when they melt;
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it is not an end,
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but a continuation
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of their path through the cycle of life.
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Some of the ice in the icebergs that I photograph is very young --
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a couple thousand years old.
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And some of the ice
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is over 100,000 years old.
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The last pictures I'd like to show you
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are of an iceberg that I photographed
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in Qeqetarsuaq, Greenland.
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It's a very rare occasion
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that you get to actually witness
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an iceberg rolling.
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So here it is.
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You can see on the left side a small boat.
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That's about a 15-foot boat.
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And I'd like you to pay attention
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to the shape of the iceberg
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and where it is at the waterline.
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You can see here, it begins to roll,
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and the boat has moved to the other side, and the man is standing there.
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This is an average-size Greenlandic iceberg.
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It's about 120 feet above the water,
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or 40 meters.
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And this video is real time.
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(Music)
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And just like that,
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the iceberg shows you a different side of its personality.
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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About the Speaker:

Camille Seaman - Photographer
TED Senior Fellow Camille Seaman photographs big ice and big clouds.

Why you should listen

Camille Seaman takes photographs all over the world using digital and film cameras in multiple formats. Since 2003, her work has concentrated on the fragile environment of the polar regions. Her current project concerns the beauty of natural environments in Siberia. 

Seaman's photographs have been published in Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men's Journal and more, and she has self-published many books on themes like “My China” and “Melting Away: Polar Images” through Fastback Creative Books, a company that she co-founded. In 2008, she was honored with a one-person exhibition, The Last Iceberg, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

Read the TED Blog's Q&A with Camille Seaman >>

Browse a gallery of stormcloud photos >>

More profile about the speaker
Camille Seaman | Speaker | TED.com