• No Ocean No Earth {NONE}®

    annedoubiletphoto EcoCuffs

    Without healthy oceans we won't have water to drink, nor food to eat, nor air to breathe. No blue, no green as Dr. Sylvia Earle says, and refers to the ocean as "the blue heart of the planet." Earth's surface is 3/4 covered with water--from space it looks like a glowing blue marble.  I've been grappling back and forth between my two opposing forces of HOPE Help Ocean Protect Earth and NONE No Ocean No Earth. Reading all the news these days about climate change AND witnessing firsthand during forty years of SCUBA diving unthinkable underwater changes on coral reefs, it's hard to stay positive. But isn't it more productive and constructive to talk about HOPE rather than NONE? I think we now need to consider both equally for a sustainable future.

    Andros

    Right now 75% of Caribbean coral reefs are under threat; 50% in the Indo Pacific OR ¾ of all worldwide corals reefs are now threatened. By 2050 without significant reduction in CO2 emissions nearly ALL CORAL REEFS WORLDWIDE will be at risk. Due to increased carbon absorption, ocean acidification will be the most important issue facing marine environments in the future. As carbon increases, oceans get warmer and more acidic, preventing reef building corals from building and producing more moisture and more monster storms like superstorm Sandy and typhoon Haiyan.

    In the summer of 2007 I left Papua New Guinea near the bottom of the earth in the Southern Hemisphere & traveled to the Arctic at the top of the world. 2007 was the first time since record keeping started that the NW Passage was free of summer ice. 2010 was the second, 2011 the third and 2012 had the warmest summer on record. The effect of climate change on world economy is profound:  (according to the NYT Sunday 9/15/13) 46 ships sailed across the passage in the summer of 2012—400 are expected to cross in this season of 2013.  A shipping route over the top of the world shaves thousands of miles, days and costs off the traditional southern route through the Suez Canal.

    The ocean represents a lot of things to many people. To scientists it is the source of field work and research; to fishermen from America to Indonesia it is livelihood; to a global population it is food source; to me it is my office, my endless passion, my life work. As a photographer and writer it is my place of creativity and challenge and Zen moments. For all of us, our present behavior toward the ocean is not sustainable.

    So much on our planet is now so connected in a need for conservation and change. I remember returning from a dive trip to the remote Eastern Fields between Australia's Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. Foggy in jetlag I emerged from the subway onto the teeming streets of mid-town New York City and I kept flashing on the thousands of silvery grunts I had just seen streaming across those pristine reefs and laughing to myself because our streaming city streets are connected to those teeming coral reefs on the other side of the world -- it's just that all these people running around here don't know that yet! We are all teeming and streaming together on Planet Earth. This was an "aha" moment when my world view changed.

    On a recent early morning beach walk waves rolled onto the deserted shore in fog and mist. I picked my way through cast -off pieces of civilization-- one black rubber boot, a foil juice-box with plastic straw intact, a rubber glove, the black plastic lid of a Folger's coffee can, broken pieces of white Styrofoam, a cottage cheese container, a deflated balloon, plastic bags everywhere like deflated balloons, and of course aluminum soda and beer cans and plastic water bottles and various personal toiletry items. What are we thinking?

    As a child, the ocean stretched out before me in infinite possibility. As an adult I/we now know the ocean is finite and we must stop treating it as a giant garbarge dump. Maybe this is one of many paths away from NONE towards HOPE. I certainly hope so!

  • Andros July 2013

    When my life mentor Dr. Genie Clark put together an expedition team to Andros in the Bahamas (see  my Photo Gallery here) to add another chapter to her worldwide garden eels study (started in the 1970s) of course I had to participate. Especially since Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros is the birthplace of my diving life and the Small Hope Bay family is part of my story. Putting together Rosie Kurth Birch Lovdal and Genie in Sarasota last winter resulted in the Andros trip--the underwater world connections form  a vast web!

    Rosi told Genie about some garden eel beds just off shore in sandy areas on the reef. In addition to variety of marine life harbored in the sandy back-reef areas, Andros sits on the edge of a continental shelf that drops down to 6,000 feet and forms the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world--after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize. The Blue Hole, "Over the Wall," and a shark dive off Small Hope offer worldclass dive sites. Starting about 90 feet below the surface, going Over the Wall features different spots at varying depths. The Ledge at 185 feet used to be a beach before the last ice age and over more recent years has hosted lawn chairs and halloween skeletons to surprise new divers. Swimming out over the Edge of the Wall is a trip into eternal blue as you hover above the vertical wall disappearing down, down, down beneath. Inner space.

    Several years ago I went with Genie and group to Papua New Guinea (see my Photo Galleries here and here) for a  study on Plotosus linneatus or poisonous catfish. After several stories there for National Geographic I was happy to return in 2007 and see the reefs of PNG were as healthy and fish-full as when I first dove there over 30 years ago. The Caribbean reefs including parts of Andros, however, have not fared that well over the years.

    Right now 75% of Caribbean coral reefs are under threat; 50% in the Indo Pacific OR ¾ of all worldwide corals reefs are now threatened. By 2050 without significant reduction in CO2 emissions nearly ALL CORAL REEFS WORLDWIDE will be at risk. Due to increased carbon absorption, ocean acidification will be the most important issue facing marine environments in the future. As carbon increases, oceans get warmer and more acidic, preventing reef building corals from building and producing more moisture and more monster storms like Sandy.


    Parts of the reefs around Andros are still beautiful with purple sea fans while other parts are carpeted with a green, web algae-- Microdictyon marinum. Found throughout the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos starting in the 1980s it was described by Barrett Brooks from the Smithsonian. To my non-scientist eye, though, there seems alot more of it now. Looking like fiberglass it is widespread like some alien life form from outer space.  And with the eerie absence of fish--feels like an underwater ghost town-- it's disorienting--nature out of balance--what planet am I on anyway--is it still Earth? Is it still the Ocean I knew and know?

    AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE LIONFISH....an invasive species from the Indo Pacific everywhere throughout the Caribbean eating everything in sight, growing big and fat, with no natural predators. I saw more lionfish diving in Belize and the Bahamas during the past 2 years than many years in the Indo Pacific. Again, nature out of balance.

    The garden eels of Andros are tiny and very skinny--much smaller than ones seen in the Indo Pacifc--so observation and documentation proved very challenging. We constructed a canvass eel blind near Marion site; grids were laid in the sand at two different colonies--Haulin Tower and Marion--to count eels, map and measure distances between holes of possible mating pairs. However, no mating behaviour was observed. Our diving was land based at the Lodge with boat trips out to the reef several times a day, sometimes at night, sometimes pre-dawn.

    On the grid with Rachel Dreyer, Genie's assistant, and Cathy Marine, Genie's former assistant

    During 10 days of diving I saw only one grouper--not on the reef but on the platform floor of the sunken Haulin Tower. Artificial reefs provide new home turf for many reef fish. One school of yellow grunts--many used to sweep in great numbers along the reefs-- flowed back and forth within the metal struts also visited by one big red hind and one long, gleaming trumphet fish, together as if friends!

    A visit to the wild, remote west-side of Andros--on the other side of the island from Small Hope Bay--was another trip into my past. I was there in 1972 with a photo team from Playboy Magazine (doing a spread on the out islands) and some of the Small Hope family. (In fact the first paycheck I earned was from Playboy !) Covered with mangroves and a thick white clay-like mud rich in calcium carbonate, the place is untouched by time. In fact, Andros' west-side as part of the Grand Bahama Bank has been recognized as a major area for natural carbon sequestration--as important  as the green arboreal forests of North America. Who knew in 1972 that this would be an important issue in 2013?! How the planet is changing during our short lifespan here.

  • HOPE Help Ocean Protect Earth

    Water Ripples, Hudson Bay, Arctic                                               Seagrass underwater, Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

    With healthy oceans we have water to drink, food to eat, and air to breathe. The earth's surface is 3/4 covered with water: it is the Blue Planet, the Blue Marble. From coral reefs throughout the Indo Pacific to penguins clustered on Antarctic islands to polar bears on shrinking Arctic ice, climate changes are swirling around the globe. According to Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper columnist, Thomas Friedman, we should call it global weirding instead of global warming. 2012 is the warmest year here in the Northeastern United States since written record-keeping started.

    Voyaging through four decades from the bottom to the top of the world, I've witnessed unthinkable environmental changes both underwater and on land. These changes altered my world-view and thrust me from complacency into ocean advocacy. From teeming coral reefs to streaming city streets life is connected in a vast web in which sustainability is now threatened.

    The ocean represents a lot of things to many people. To scientists it is the source of field work and research; to fishermen from America to Indonesia it is livelihood; to a global population it is food source; to me it is my office, my endless passion, my life work. As a photographer and writer it is my place of creativity and challenge and Zen moments. For all of us, our present behavior toward the ocean is not sustainable.

    So much on our planet is now so connected in a need for conservation and change. I remember returning from a dive trip to the remote Eastern Fields between Australia's Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. Foggy in jetlag I emerged from the subway onto the teeming streets of mid-town New York City and I kept flashing on the thousands of silvery grunts I had just seen streaming across those pristine reefs and laughing to myself because our streaming city streets are connected to those teeming coral reefs on the other side of the world -- it's just that all these people running around here don't know that yet! We are all teeming and streaming together on Planet Earth!

    A few months before Superstorm Sandy hit while visiting a friend I was walking along the beach at Breezy Point, a barrier beach at the western entrance to NY Harbor that stretches all the way east to Montauk. The waves rolled onto the deserted beach in the early morning fog and mist as I picked my way through cast -off pieces of civilization-- one black rubber boot, a foil juice-box with plastic straw intact, a rubber glove, the black plastic lid of a Folger's coffee can, broken pieces of white Styrofoam, a cottage cheese container, a deflated balloon, plastic bags everywhere like deflated balloons, and of course aluminum soda and beer cans and plastic water bottles and various personal toiletry items. And this was BEFORE all the overwhelming Sandy debris. What are we thinking?

    Over 400 years ago Shakespeare wrote, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." That was over 400 years ago. I believe the same words hold true today because we now need more than ever to safeguard our kinship with Nature as well as with each other.

  • Panamania!

     Xmas 2012

    Panama for the holidays to join high octane CEO daughter Emily Doubilet for Xmas, my birthday and New Year's another mother/daughter adventure planned and arranged by Emily. It is the best possible gift for a big birthday--I don't have to make one plan or phone-call! Emily alighted in Panama City last winter for 3 months to work and escape the cold. A communal scene here with other mobile young entrepreneurs, shared office space & living quarters all made possible by the internet: business can be conducted wherever there is wifi. What a life, what a world!

    Emily @ Tantalo Restaurant & Bar in Casco Viejo                                      PC skyline from our apartment balcony

    Parts of Casco Viejo in Panama City are like a tropical Williamsburg, Brooklyn--renovated old buildings beautiful old architecture-- turned into hip cool hotels, clubs, bars, apartments alongside rundown, crumbling buildings. Construction is everywhere. Across the water from the old city is a skyline of skyscrapers rising along the shoreline like a 21st century shock: there is alot of ex-pat money invested here in the hot humidity. Flying into PC @ night many ships many dots of light line the ocean waiting to go through the Panama Canal.

    Ships and skyscrapers, Panama City.

    Emily has rented an apartment in Casco Viejo from Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel for our first few nights in PC a bright yellow newly renovated old building on the harbor with a wrap around terrace just up the street from her apartment. Although the hot city is Xmas empty, fireworks go all night long on Xmas eve and loud music blasts through the streets: the city is so noisy & sleep impossible! We walk through some old town squares Plaza Bolivar & Plaza Cathedral-- morning & evening not during high afternoon heat, past beautiful crumbling and transforming colonial architecture looks like pictures of Havana. Beautiful walkway along el Paseo las Bovedas in Casco Antiguo at dusk along the harbor.

    Emily @ harbor off Las Bovedas                                                                 Skyline across harbor from Las Bovedas

    Dusk along Las Bovedas site of controvesial bridge to be built here

    After many hassles/plans A & B, we settle on an itinerary based on availability due to Xmas booked out: 4 nights @ Hacienda del Mar in Islas de las Perlas (we need immediate fix high-end beautiful ocean resort); then 2 nights in mountain village spa & natural mineral springs of El Valle; then 2 nights over New Year's with a bunch of Emily's peer group organized in the San Blas islands.                                          

    Hacienda del Mar is the only resort on San Jose in the Pearl Islands and because the big plane overbooked on Xmas day we go on a 6-seater with 2 other passengers and an overflow of luggage. The landing strip a grass swath cut in the lush undergrowth and the airport is a little wooden hut. But we are in tropical wilderness from the city door to door within 2 hours. Turquoise & yellow macaws squawking raucously let us know who truly owns the island. Snorkeling in the warm waters off a gorgeous beach after a delicious lunch of grilled fresh red snapper and fresh lobster salad. Nothing feels as good as swimming in a warm sea.

    Macaws on San Jose, Las Perles                                                                 Beach @ Hacienda del Mar

    Right now it is a pouring morning rain. And the unrelenting humidity and mucho SAND FLEAS remove the high-end index. Paradise? A season of Survivor was filmed here and I can see why! Early morning snorkel over sandy rippled bottom and dappling light rays zen-like. A surprisingly wonderful dive around Monkey Head Rock swirling big schools of big Pacific fish snappers & jacks; torpedo-like silvery dorados zoom around. I wonder if there are any green morays and then we see one grinning and disappearing into the rock under-hang. Then I wonder if we'll see any sharks and a big grey nurse swims by quickly. First time Fernando my dive master has seen one there. Am I shark bait? Big langostas waving their antennae as we peer into rock crevices. The bottom littered with empty clamshells & langosta carapaces much feeding and activity going on. I spot a very big scorpion fish camouflaged perfectly as a sandy rock; Fernando sees a giant Goliath grouper in a cave. Big Pacific big fish.

    Anne getting ready to dive                 Travelling out to dive boat                Post-dive cocktails on the deck

    On the plane over one of the two other passengers is wonderful Ingmar Herrera, a Panamanian sound engineer and musician on personal holiday. Named after Ingmar Bergman by his father who loves Bergman films(!), Ingmar (karma-ly!) works on film and TV shoots (he worked on Survivor). On the plane back to PC a lovely 30-minute flight over glistening ocean and softly hazy air just Em & I fly again over the Panama Canal and the endless line of ships waiting to pass through from the Pacific to the Atlantic or vice versa. Our driver meets us for 2-hour drive to El Valle from heat & humidity to cool, mountain breezes. The road into El Valle off the highway twists & hairpin turns like a giant snake.

    Ingmar (right); dive boat driver (left)                                                                Panama City skyline from small plane

    Los Mandarinos Hotel & Spa is a beautiful Tuscan style hotel where we take advantage of the spa with hot rock geothermal massages, steam room & Jacuzzi. Casa Lordes right next door is a first class restaurant where we end up dining both nights as so delicious! A trip into town for the natural hot springs where everyone goes to apply mud masks men, women, children all walking around like New Guinea mudmen! Our skin is rejuvenated by this mud facial. The Sunday market in El Valle is brightly colored with crafts and locally grown veggies & fruits.

    Anne applying mud mask in El Valle                                                           Emily mud

    Our driver takes us back to PC where another driver picks us up at Emily's apartment at Casa Malecon on el Terreplen near el Mercado de Mariscos (fish market right next to the public pier) and starts our adventure to the San Blas Islands. A 2.5-hour drive turns into 5 hours as we weave through New Year's Eve day traffic to pick up 5 other passengers (Kuna Indians) and some cases of beer. Quite a tour of traffic choked PC. But finally we turn left off the highway to hit the unbelievable road--what an engineering feat!-- to the Kuna Yala, the San Blas Islands snaking through rain forest and gyrating up and down mountains for an hour.

    Emily to apartment entrance                                                                    Traffic choked Panama City

    Long & winding road to Kuna Yala

    New Year&'s Eve on Needle Island: a group of young social entrepreneurs put together by PJ (Peter Yesawich, Director) and Katie Garstin all with something to offer and not knowing each other bond and drink and carouse and swim and have fun! And talk the high-speed talk of media connected savvy young Type-A's. Davies, a Kuna Indian, owns the island camp where some sleep in tents and some like Em & me get to sleep in a "private" bamboo hut with thatched roof and sand floor. Shower & toilet seldom work so we use the public ones. But our cabin is placed in a most beautiful private spot amidst dancing palm trees and blowing breezes and whitecaps breaking on the reef just steps from our open doorway. What a place to start 2013!

    Volleyball on beach @ Needle Island                                                         Our Needle Island cabin escape

    The breezes actually increase to constant winds for our whole 2 days but it is a most soothing and beautiful presence. I wish I could bottle up that wind in the palm trees and sounds of the ocean to open at will home on my NYC terrace. I purchase 2 beautiful molas on Needle Island aptly named because it's known for intricate stitching and good quality molas with several layers of fabric. Leaving San Blas is hot & sweaty in the required life vests as the sun finally comes out and the water taxi to the port island is loaded with about 20 of us so it chugs slowly through the wavy sea. We load into cars for the drive back to PC the incredible road like a roller coaster--driving skill required-- through the rich rain forest but this time rocking out to reggae in Spanish! So fun with EVERYONE in our car including Andrew Horn, the identical twins Miki Agrawal founder of Slice (organic pizza) and Radha Agrawal.The ac quits for awhile much to the young driver's dismay for his brand new Toyota 4 wheel drive but cuts back in after we get back on the main highway an hour later.

    Needle Island molas                                                                      Needle Island dancing palm trees in the wind

    My final night at the Trump Hotel and Ocean Club in the Oz-like high-rise line on PC's horizon is a one-night stay in luxury. Towering over the coastline surrounded by shanties topped with satellite dishes is a one-night stand in air-conditioned marble opulence. The infinity pool on the 13th floor looks over a sparkling Pacific and the open glass elevators to my room on the 28th floor provide an aerial view of this high-end skyscraper neighborhood. A vertical urban trip --such contrast to the thatched hut with sand floors. A late afternoon swim followed by an early next morning swim in the infinity pool is deliciously surreal. Now winging back to freezing NYC. THANK YOU darling Emily for a Panamanian zoom around showing how much this country has to experience. What a memorable birthday gift--we sure laid down some exciting new history!!

    Infinity pool @ Trump                                                                                          Skyline from in Infinity pool

    The vast blue Pacific Ocean.

    HOPE Help Ocean Protect Earth

    See my movie PANAMANIA!

  • Conservation Column

    by Ginny Michaux, MN'02, Chair Conservation Committee, The Explorers Club

    Sept. 1, 2012, Respectfully submitted to The Explorers Club LOG

    In a time when oceans are widely reported by scientists to be in peril from overfishing,
    garbage, industrial pollution, and climate change, who can better show us the situation
    than an accomplished explorer/photographer? With a picture worth a thousand words,
    it nevertheless helps when that photographer is also a writer and eloquent speaker.
    Anne Levine Doubilet, FR'02 has been photographing, writing, and speaking about
    what she finds in oceans for forty years, in thousands of dives worldwide. She is a
    great example of that important component of being an explorer: coming back and
    educating people about your findings. She says about oceans, "The oceans are truly
    threatened now, and it is a complicated picture."

    Anne Doubilet on Hoplo Reef, Papua New Guinea.  ©Anne Doubilet

    Another Explorers Club luminary, Dr. Eugenie Clark, MED'85 (See Log, Summer,
    2011) inspired Anne to think scientifically while observing underwater life with her
    artistic eye, allowing her photographs to convey scientific observations along with
    beauty. After working together in the Red Sea, Japan, Papua New Guinea and
    elsewhere, Anne says simply but emphatically of Dr. Clark, "She changed my life."
    From this watershed experience in her professional development, Anne says it is
    important for every explorer to have a great mentor.
    Over her working years, Anne has visited both poles and dived and photographed in
    most of earth's warm waters. She loves the "absolute visual chaos of healthy coral
    reefs." More striking to her now, though, is the visible and profound degradation
    afflicting these reefs worldwide she has witnessed gradually accruing over decades.


    Red Sea coral reef, Sharm el Sheikh, Sinai. ©Anne Doubilet

    Once lovely Caribbean reefs are now covered in reddish brown algae, effectively
    suffocating new reef development. And the statistics keep getting worse: Threequarters
    of all coral reefs are now threatened, and without significant changes, by 2050,
    nearly all coral reefs worldwide will be at risk. Due to increased carbon absorption,
    ocean acidification will be the most important issue facing marine environments in years
    to come.


    Great White Shark, Dangerous Reef, Neptune Islands, South Australia. ©Anne Doubilet

    Anne Doubilet has dived with an underwater photography team for more than thirty
    National Geographic articles, and is a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Her
    book Under the Sea from A to Z, is for children of all ages. Her solo photography
    exhibition, Coral and Ice, premiered at the National Arts Club where she is a member.
    She has written for the Explorers Journal and received the Platinum Pro Dive Award
    from Scuba Schools International. Anne serves on the Board of the Ocean Research
    and Conservation Association and promotes the work of Clean Ocean Action. She
    recently spoke at World Ocean's Day, June 8, which honored Women Working in the
    Oceans.
    She has served The Explorers Club on the Board of Directors as Chair and Vice
    President of Lectures and Programs; as Chair of Artist in Residence; and on the
    Conservation Committee. Her work can be seen at www.annedoubilet.com.


    Elephant Seals on the beach, Valdez Peninsula, Patagonia. ©Anne Doubilet

    As an explorer, artist, and conservationist, Anne Doubilet encourages young explorers
    to "Get out there and explore, witness, and document in whatever your medium -
    because who knows what you will discover, and what changes you will see in your
    lifetime!"

  • Music Magic on the Danube

    Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube (August 20-Sept. 10, 2012), offered just a few times a year, is one of many high-end luxury tours offered by Tauck a Maestro in the luxury tour industry. An unusual type of trip for me-- as I usually go on working expedition trips where roughing it is the norm-- this luxurious river-boat journey was gifted from a friend. Lucky me! See my Gallery Danube Music Magic movie and Danube Cruise


    View of Pest from Buda

    The SWISS JEWEL our home for one week holds about 100 passengers-- is a new, sparkling, spacious, light-filled river boat with well appointed cabins and suites, an excellent and very attentive staff, too good food in the large formal dining room on the lower level, a small extra dining area for less formal, lighter meals on the back deck, a large sundeck with recliner chairs that we hardly had any time in which to hang out, a well-stocked bar and main lounge area.

    Ship's bell onboard cruising the Danube River

    It was my first river cruise after countless expeditions in rough seas all over the world so it was wonderful to cruise smoothly along the water at night, and lie in bed leaving the sliding glass panels from floor to ceiling wide open to the fresh air. The lock system on the Danube is an impressive feat of engineering. Traversing the river we ended up 900 feet higher then when we started.

    Passing through a lock on the Danube

    The magic of music on this Danube cruise was undeniable as we had our own two Maestros accompanying us PhDs in Music History and Opera to discuss the music we would hear and the historical sites we would visit. Everywhere we were ferried around in private vans and educated by local guides. We were treated to private tours of opera houses, palaces, museums, special lunches and dinners with concerts, ballets, and opera performances arranged for us. It was a magnificent immersion in history-- the palaces, the museums, the gold leaf, the architecture and of course the MUSIC--Mozart, Listz, Beethoven, Hayden, Bartok.

    The 2 Maestros, Michael (L) & Andrew (R)

    The itinerary started with a 2 night stay at the Marriott Hotel in the Pest section of Budapest (HUNGARY), tours around Buda and Pest, a week on ship board with stops in Bratislava (SLOVAKIA), Vienna (AUSTRIA), Melk and the Wachau Valley, Linz, Salzburg, Passau (GERMANY), Regensburg, ending with a two night stay in the Marriott Hotel in Prague (CZECH REPUBLIC) with tours around that historical city.

    Bar at the Marriot Hotel, Budapest

    History of this part of the world is palpable everywhere one walks from the early royal centuries through World War I, the Nazi invasion of WWII, the rise and fall of Communism to the present day resurgence of tourism.

    Town square in Bratislava, Slovakia

    In Vienna we attended the opening night of the Vienna State Opera, a performance of Verdi's Don Carlo; an elegant champagne evening at the Palais Pallavicini with a four-course dinner served underneath crystal chandeliers accompanied by Viennese musicians, opera singers and ballet dancers; a private morning rehearsal by the Vienna Resident Orchestra at the Auersperg Palace; a visit to Mozart's residence where the view out the window into the alley is the same today as when he gazed out there in the late 1700's. The hugely magnificent Benedictine Melk Abbey built in the 1700s houses hundreds of original rare books and manuscripts seen nowhere else in the world and marks the gateway to the picturesque Wachau Valley. The old city of Salzburg where Mozart was born and Furst chocolatiers make the famous candy known as Mozart's Balls--the blue/silver wrapped ones are higher quality chocolate than the red/gold ones!

    Statue to Mozart where he conducted "Don Giovanni" in 29.10.1787, Estates Theatre, Prague

    In Prague Old Town our private tour of the Estates Theatre provided a first hand passage into history as Mozart himself conducted performances here of his opera Don Giovanni. Our farewell evening dinner at the Lobkowicz Palace will forever be etched in my mind as this magnificent palace and museum has a rich personal family history and houses the largest private art collection in the Czech Republic and is now open to the public. The 7th Prince Lobkowicz was a patron of Beethoven. The music archives contain original scores preserved in astoundingly good condition by Beethoven (his 4th and 5th Symphonies) and Mozart's revised version of Handel's Messiah with inscribed notes in the margins in their own handwriting. Visit www.lobkowicz.cz to see the rich cultural history and vision for an art-filled future.

    Glass of champagne at Palais Pallavicini, Vienna (left); View of castle district from Lobkowicz Palace, Prague (right).

  • The Arctic

    I went to the Arctic during my epic 2007 summer when I journeyed from Papua New Guinea in the southern hemisphere to the top of the world. I was a photography advisor for Students on Ice, an exciting Canadian organization that takes high school and college students on expedition to the Arctic in August and the Antarctic in December/January with the goal of educating all to become "Ambassadors of the Environment." We started out in Ottawa where 30 staff met up with 70 high school students from all over the world--Canada, the U.S. Europe, India, Russia and several northern Inuit students some of whom had never left their villages nor been on an airplane. We boarded a plane for the 4 hour flight fom Ottawa to Churchill where we were to meet our ship, the MV Orlova.

    In a day of exploring Churchill we walked along the shores of Hudson Bay hiking over slippery rocks coated with ancient lichens and saw beluga whites out in the grey water. We visited a polar bear holding pen--which was empty--built for hungry, marauding polar bears who invade the town for garbarge threatening the local population. The starving bears are held in the pen until they can be released back into the wild during colder weather. Warmer temperatures mean less ice time and therefore less food for the polar bears. Their existance is seriously threatened.

    We boarded Orlova which would be our home for the next two weeks and set off across calm seas in these surprisingly warm temperatures. 2007 was the first time since record keeping started that the Northwest Passage was free of summer ice. 2010 was the second. Within hours a pod of Orcas came spouting ship-side and our screams of excitment filled the air. Huge marine mammals cause wondrous feelings in humans! Twelve rubber Zodiac boats kept on deck were lowered each day as weather determined our landings and Zodiac cruising schedule. Because of quickly and constantly changing conditions, Geoff Green, expedition leader and founder of SOI, established our credo: "flexibility is the key!"

    Our route took us across Hudson Bay and through Hudson Straits to the southern part of Baffin Island and the beginning of the Arctic Circle. Zodiac cruising around Walrus Island--on the far side from a large walrus colony-- we spotted a mother polar bear and her cub feasting on a walrus carcass. Surprised at this weakened and hungry bear able to kill a large walrus, we learned the next day via radio phone that poachers had killed the walrus for the ivory tusks--which is why we saw no head. In the Lower Savage Islands we have our second and only other sighting of one lone polar bear climbing over slippery rocks in warm mist and fog.The rocky promontories of Cape Westonholme house thousands of nesting Muir and other sea birds. It's a cacophony of bird cries and whirring, circling wings over a flat, calm sea.

    The villge of Kimmirut, tucked inside a proctective bay, is our first visit to an Inuit community after Churchill. Kimmirut houses a group of well-known Inuit carvers and artists, and a group of local inhabitants greets our Zodiacs and leads us on tours around the town. Despite the remoteness of this village, rock and rap music has reached Arctic kids and many of the children graciously pose for all our filming. A seal has been caught and will be served to us—raw and cubed—as honored guests. Sadly PCB’s and flame retardant chemicals have also made their way up to this remote  part of the world—traced in the flesh of seals and whales—and identified in the breast milk of Inuit mothers. The work of Dr. Susan Shaw at the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, Maine has been gathering this data for the past 20 years.

    Kekerten Island, now a national park, is one of many old whaling stations that dotted this area where bowhead whales were hunted almost to extinction. Huge kettles and containers—now rusted artifacts serving as reminders of past whaling days-- were used for rendering down and storing blubber. A gigantic bowhead skull shrouded in eerie silence and placed on the landscape also marks this area where hundreds, thousands of bowheads were hunted over the years. It’s almost as if the few remaining leviathans steer clear of this island where their ancestors were slaughtered. No bowheads have been spotted here for years. In just a few hours of bright morning sunlight, three lonely pieces of ice—tiny harbingers of the coming winter—dot the shoreline.

    Grasses and flowers are still blooming in the soft, summer tundra of Padloping Island making hiking difficult through the ankle deep --sometimes mid-calf deep--mud. Dotting the shore are rusted, abandoned hulks of old U.S. military equipment adding a silent and shocking blight to this pristine landscape at the southern edge of the Arctic Circle. Then during the last two days of our voyage we finally spot ice as we cruise into Hoare Bay. It’s all hands on deck as everyone rushes outside into the finally freezing air shouting with excitement and wonder.

    This surreal land and seascape is what we came to see. The captain inches us slowly into the pack ice just to give us a feel of what it’s like. The Orlova, however, is ice-capable not an ice-breaker so we hover at the edge of the 9/10s surface covering. Pack ice is rated on a scale from 1 to 10 and we launch into Zodiacs to cruise closer to the ice. I can’t resist—I reach out from the Zodiac to touch an iceberg like some forbidden artifact in a museum of shrinking ice. Then for just one hour in Butterfly Bay, the sun breaks out and everything changes from monochromatic grey to brilliant sky blue and turquoise and glistening white. Once again in another part of the world, I am Alice entering Wonderland.

  • Coral & Ice

    During the space of one summer in 2007 I went from Papua New Guinea to the Arctic. I went from the bottom of the planet to the top; from swimming underwater on coral reefs in the southern hemisphere to cruising through ice on Hudson Bay in the northern hemisphere. From bottom to top; from under to over; from tiny to huge. Flying back home to NYC after leaving the Arctic I slowly woke into that transitional airspace between asleep and awake where I saw these two extremes of nature as connected. It gave me the idea for Coral & Ice--my first solo photo exhibition held at the National Arts Club in New York City--where I juxtaposed images of ice from the top of our planet with tiny corals and creatures from the underwater world I shot worldwide over the years. I edited through hundreds of photographs and as I laid out images on my light box and matched them up to flow visually together for an under/over theme, I realized that all these icebergs I shot were melting and all these corals had vanished. I was shocked. This was an "aha"moment which changed how I view the world and made me want to promote conservation and environmental awareness through my work.

    I remember so vividly when my daughter Emily (now 30) was 13 months and we were on assignment in the Red Sea. I was swimming around  underneath our live-aboard dive boat at dusk when all the coral polyps come out to feed on tiny plankton drifting by in the gentle current. Dusk is a time of changeover in the sea when  day creatures disappear into the protecting reef and night critters emerge in a flurry of activity. Soft corals are transformed into undulating forests harboring tiny creatures such as the red crab on the pink coral branch (bottom left.) Up on deck just above me in a makeshift swing rigged up by the crew, Emily was happily swinging back and forth in the soft evening breezes of the Sinai desert. I was Alice swimming around in a Wonderland of pinks, purples, lavendars, yellows, oranges--magical soft coral bushes of improbable flowers illuminated by underwater lights and the lengthening light rays of dusk. I couldn't wait to someday show this magical world to my daughter. And when Emily was old enough to dive here at my favorite spot in the Red Sea, these corals were all gone. In the short time she has been on this planet pieces of the natural world have disappeared, been destroyed.

    The Coral & Ice series consists of twelve giant panels--each 40 inches wide by 60 inches high. Being in a room surrounded by all of them imparts a sense of the vastness of nature. And how the smallest branch of red coral is part of the same world as a huge white iceberg transected by turquoise lines of melt water (panel below right.) The boat driver's red jacket ties the two images together in this panel and provides a visual sense of scale that cannot be properly described in words: humankind's place in monolithic nature.

    Corals are animals—not plants—despite their flower like appearance. Made up of millions of polyps (which means “tiny mouth” in Latin) corals feed on rich planktonic broth in the evening sea—part of a delicately balanced food chain that can be destroyed with damage to just one link.

    So much on our planet is now so connected in a need for conservation and change. I remember returning from a dive trip to the remote Eastern Fields between Australia’s Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. Foggy in jetlag I slowly emerged from the subway onto the teeming streets of mid-town New York City and I kept flashing on the thousands of silvery grunts I had just seen sweeping across those pristine reefs  laughing to myself because our streaming city streets are connected to those teeming coral reefs on the other side of the world -- it’s just that all these people running around in the city don’t know that yet! We are all teeming and streaming together here on Planet Earth.