Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kelly Tarlton, Antarctica, and ancient photography

Kelly Tarlton was a Kiwi diver, explorer, and inventor who opened an Antarctic theme park in a series of abandoned sewer tanks beneath Auckland. Sounds a bit odd, but it's a much-loved destination and was only about 15 minutes from our home so we bought year-round passes and went after school when it was nearly empty and we could ride the snowcats around the penguin habitat over and over again without standing in line. Our favorite was when they had baby penguins, but the whole place was pretty cool.

These were the social piranhas.

Loved the plentiful Lego divers and submarines in the fish habitats. The fish seemed thankful for the diversions.

On the way in to Kelly Tarlton's, visitors walk through a replica of Captain John Falcon Scott's Antarctic hut, from the early 20th century. We learned after being in NZ for a little while that it's a common Kiwi dream to get down to Antarctica. New Zealand is one of the closer places in the world to that harsh and mysterious continent and Air New Zealand actually ran sightseeing flights down there for a while in the 70s until a terrible crash killed a couple of hundred people. Now you can take a long boat trip (a few weeks), best done from S. America, or donate heaps of money to one of the conservation groups. Or be a scientist. I'm sure there are other ways, too. What do I know?

Our friend Pete's brother, Nigel Watson, heads up the Antarctic Heritage Trust which preserves the explorers' expedition bases. He worked on this stunning book of photos done by a wonderful New Zealand photographer, Jane Ussher. I am ordering it as soon as I hit the Publish Post button, as I've been meaning to do that and now is as good a time as any. (Done! While I waited for the photos to load. Hooray.)

I was particularly interested in the darkroom supplies of the expedition's photographer. I wonder who it was -- was he chosen because he was a photographer or was it just one of the scientists who was given a camera and told to start shooting. I wouldn't think that many cameras were floating around in those days. Photography was just becoming a known entity, if I remember correctly. But what a gig!

Unfortunately, Captain Scott's second trip to Antarctica ended when everyone, including the sled dogs, died in white-out blizzards that lasted for eons and they all either froze or starved to death. Unimaginable, really.

Really cool to have the chance to learn about a part of the world that is so far away from the US that we barely know anything at all about it all the way over here. Names of people and places that have never been uttered by anyone I know in my 41 years are household words over on the other side of the world.

Now I'm really looking forward to receiving my Still Life book and staring for hours at its gorgeousness.

xo all! K.


  1. I like that you used black and white photos for this post. What's a snowcat?

  2. Well honestly, C, the colours of the lights were so messed up in there that is was just simpler to make them b/w! :o) The snow cats were these motorized car things that took us on a track around the penguin habitat. And thru a simulated white out. Course being from Cleveland, we didn't need that extra instruction.