Every year between 2003 and 2011, Camille Seaman traveled to the Arctic and Antarctic as a photographer for scientific voyages and commercial vessels. Melting Away: A Ten-Year Journey through Our Endangered Polar Regions features 75 photographs from those expeditions.
Naturally, the book contains gorgeous images of seemingly pristine, icy wilderness. It takes a trained eye to pick out the signs of climate change in many of these pictures—expanses of open water that should be ice-covered, the tongue of a glacier halting before a pile of bare rocks.
The images that reveal the presence of people at the poles are just as intriguing, and often subtle—as when a wild animal stares directly into Seaman’s lens.
During what would become her final voyage to the Arctic, Seaman watched a ravenous polar bear, deprived of the sea ice it needed to hunt seals, swim five miles to a bit of land, then climb a 30-foot-high ridge studded with the nests of migratory birds.
“I watched as this hungry bear went from nest to nest, devouring the eggs and young chicks. In less than an hour he had wiped out an entire generation of king eider ducks, common eider ducks, glaucous gulls, kittiwakes and little auks,” Seaman writes.
She realized in that moment that what happens in the Arctic is connected to the rest of the world: A desperate polar bear resorts to a meal of sea birds; “a rise in the insect populations in Europe” when no birds arrive to eat the bugs; increased prices for food when the insects go on to damage crops.
Melting Away is her attempt to make the rest of the world see those connections, and do something to save the icy places she loves.