Digital Careoutside the circle

Dr. Santibáñez Holding Cut Antarctic Ice Core

2017 By Ian van Coller
An image of a scientist in a hazmat suit holding a large piece of antarctic
ice. On the image there is cursive handwriting on the background.
Annotations by Dr. Santibáñez, photograph by Ian van Coller

What tools do we use to extract information from the past that will help us stop, or solve, crises in the future? Naturalists of the Long Now is a collaborative series in which photographer Ian van Coller invites scientists to make annotations directly on his photographic prints, in an effort to help us visualise and understand ‘deep time’. In this image, a climate scientist examines a 10,800-year-old ice core extracted from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. On the surface of the photograph, the scientist provides notes and explanations about how and why these archival pieces of nature can be used in today’s environmental research.

The climate crisis, as we know, is borne out of humans’ extractive relationship to nature. In a twist on this relationship, a scientist extracts material from nature before carefully studying it as data in an effort to learn about our warming planet. The image suggests ways that art and technology can combine to help us visualise the past as a means of imagining the possible future.