What better way to start off the day after World Oceans Day than with the world premiere of the underwater video for a previously unreleased Paul McCartney song?The song, written in the 1980s, is called Blue Sway, and that’s exactly the feeling in the imagery created by noted surf filmmaker Jack McCoy. Using a speedy underwater jet ski, McCoy rides behind a wave. His camera can tilt up and down and spin 360 degrees around. The video will be included on a bonus DVD accompanying the reissued album McCartney II—due out June 14—and will also be shown at the Maui Film Festival on June 19. McCoy’s new feature film A Deeper Shade of Blue, the source of footage for the Blue Sway video, opens the festival on June 15.-Marc Silver
As a musician, Moby needs no introduction: millions of albums sold, songs in films and commercials, and those black, chunky glasses. But on the occasion of his ninth studio album, he’s coming out as a photographer too. Destroyed, a book of photographs that accompanies the album of the same title out this month, takes us on tour with the eclectic star across places, spaces, and continents. The images are spare, stark, and vibrant, set in airports, airplanes, hotels, corridors, and concert arenas. The latter, taken from Moby’s on-stage point of view, are the only ones filled with the presence of others in this gallery that points to the “strangeness of touring.”
Before a recent talk at National Geographic headquarters, Moby stopped to chat with Pop Omnivore. He’s taken pictures for 35 years—as long as he’s been making music—and credits a photographer uncle with introducing him to the craft. He says he doesn’t know which he would choose if he were forced to live without sight or sound, but his musings at the end of a long evening might have offered a clue. Said the artist: “I hope to be making music until the day I die."
You’ve taken pictures since you were ten. Do you think audio or visual is a more potent form of expression?
The methodology of creating music is so very different for me than the methodology behind creating a photograph. Photography’s really quick; it’s spontaneous and immediate. For me, taking pictures is documenting, and making music is a long, creative process. From start to finish a song can take me a year, two years, and there are so many different components to it. I’m always working on every last little aspect of it.
What subjects intrigue you as a photographer?
I love what empty spaces say about people. My favorite thing to take pictures of: completely neutral, empty spaces. I’m so much more interested in an empty chair than in a chair with a person sitting in it. Aesthetically I like the simplicity and purity, like just simple angles. But it’s almost like aesthetic forensics where you take a picture of an empty space. On the one hand there’s a simple beauty to it, but it’s also trying to understand us as a species through the things we’ve created.
Your book, Destroyed, takes us on tour with you, to cities around the world, through empty spaces and airports and concert venues. It made me wonder: Where do you feel most at home?
British Airways international business class has an upper deck that’s my favorite place on the planet. I’m not trying to be a shill for British Airways but they have these flat beds that are sort of private. They have five windows and flying from London to Los Angeles—I’m pretty happy up there. Because you look out the window & it’s just this beautiful simple skyscape for 11 hours. For better or worse that’s where I feel most at home.
If you had to live without sight or sound, which one would you choose?
Wow, it’s the single hardest question I’ve been asked, and I don’t know. I truly don’t know.
Maybe we can relate it back to the first question about different modes of expression. Is there a way to describe the relationship between music and photography?
Music is ineffable. Music has no form whatsoever—all it is is air moving just a little bit differently. It’s the only art form that you can’t touch. You can touch a CD, an iPod, but music technically doesn’t exist. Once it hits your ear, you have a reaction to it, and it’s gone. Sometimes we think that’s a song about trucks, or forests, or that’s a song about a girl named Jenny, but it’s still just air moving a little bit differently. And photography—most visual arts are much more formal, etymologically in the true sense of the word, like pertaining to a specific form. It’s almost like left brain/right brain. But when they work together, especially film and music, boy it’s just perfect.
I have been assigned the task of researching and compiling our forthcoming map of Cuba. During the early stages of my research, I hit the cartographic jackpot—the possibility of two new provinces forming in 2011. Not only were we going to be publishing a map of Cuba for the first time since 1906, we were also going to be among the first to showcase its new administrative structure. This is considered an exciting event for cartographers here at the National Geographic. Why? Because before any element is mapped, we need to assure that it portrays the most up-to-date information.
My first stop was Cuba’s official government website. Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult to navigate, especially since the English version of the site was “under construction.” My next stop was the Cuban Embassy—well, not exactly since Cuba and the U.S. have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961. But there is the Cuban Interests Section embedded within the Embassy of Switzerland here in Washington. It was there that I was able to obtain the official document (Gaceta Oficial de la Republica de Cuba, No. 023) spelling out the upcoming changes to Cuba’s new administrative divisions—Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces.
As Cuba is organized administratively by province and municipality, we were able to delineate the new provincial boundaries pretty easily by using a map of municipalities contained in the most recent Nuevo Atlas Nacional de Cuba. In the latter stages of my research I was able to reconfirm the delineation of these boundaries with the Cuban statistics office, La Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, as they were now providing statistics for these two new provinces.
Now I have to keep abreast of the deepwater oil exploration off the northern coast of Cuba. If possible, we would like our map to also showcase the location of such prospective oil fields.
—Julie A. Ibinson
Map Researcher & Editor
National Geographic Maps
Werner Herzog is back. For his 60th (!) film, the wild man of cinema took his ever-questing lens into Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, a limestone grotto in southern France filled with animal bones, geological phantasmagoria, and—most important—a gallery of Paleolithic paintings from more than 30,000 years ago. Far older than those in Lascaux, they’re remarkable for their detail, sophistication, and variety. Since 1994, when the site was discovered, the French government has kept it closed to protect its fragile ecosystem. But last year Herzog and a tiny crew were permitted a few days in the cave, and a chance to meet the scientists studying it. The result is Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a metaphysical, three-dimensional trip back in time.
Pop Omnivore spoke with the German auteur about radiocarbon dating, shooting in 3D for the first time, and what a cow-milker’s face looks like, among other things.
There will soon be seven billion humans on Earth, but how does that number compare to other species on the planet? We are certainly outnumbered by ants. Harvard biologist and ant expert Edward O. Wilson has estimated that there are a thousand trillion to ten thousand trillion ants at any one time.* That would be about a million ants for every one of us. And doesn’t it seem like that when they invade our kitchens? Estimating animal populations, especially wild ones, is hard, but here’s a look at one category of animals we can count: the ones we eat. —Nigel Holmes
Click to expand graphic.
*And they’re edible. Ants are a good source of protein and are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Here at National Geographic, fans of CBS’s The Amazing Race (and there are many of us) spend Mondays critiquing the cast and admiring how the show takes us around the globe for up-close glimpses of local culture (and crazy cab drivers). So I jumped at the opportunity to interview Phil Keoghan, the charming and wry host, as the show wraps up another season this Sunday night. A native of New Zealand, he shared views on the lessons that his show teaches, the national character of his homeland, and the art of the eyebrow raise.
The "War on Terror" is inextricably linked to place. Among these are Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, New York City's "Ground Zero," and most recently, Abbottabad, Pakistan. The suffix found on some of these names, such as stan in Afghanistan that means "land of the Afghans," serves to qualify their cultural or historic affiliations.
The critical habitat established to protect Alaska’s polar bears is the largest of its kind in the United States.
For the first time polar bears in the U.S. have their own critical habitat. The 187,157-square-mile swath around Alaska is mostly offshore, where roughly 3,500 Ursus maritimus dwell on sea ice—and large oil deposits may lurk. Set last fall, the Interior Department designation means all future drilling plans will be federally scrutinized (existing structures are exempt). It also protects barrier islands and the coastline where more mother bears are denning as sea ice melts.
So far, reactions have been mixed. The state of Alaska and Alaska Native corporations, which rely heavily on oil and gas dollars, say the red tape and the habitat’s vast size will spell huge revenue losses. Environmentalists cheer the move but fear it won’t be enforced. To save polar bears, they say, list them as endangered, not threatened. That would bolster legal protections and leave more room to tackle the chief threat to the animals’ territory: the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a familiar name on a street sign that brings a smile to your face or perhaps puts you at ease in a new place. I know that when I first moved to Washington D.C., I drove past streets named after Rosemary (my first name) and Rhode Island (my home state), and I took it as a very good omen. It turns out that my friend Alison can even one-up me; she came upon roads named Allison, Arkansas, and Kenyon (her name, home state, and alma mater, respectively) on her arrival into the city. Being in the nation’s capital will give most people the chance to see his or her home state on a street sign, but what about something as unique as your first name? Well, if you want to know just where your name might be found, you no longer have to keep your eyes glued to street signs.
Twin towers of the World Trade Center before the 9/11 terrorist attacks; photo by Robert Madden, 1982.
President Barack Obama announced late Sunday, May 1 that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces outside Islamabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was head of terrorist organization al Qaeda, and had been hunted actively since he orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Revisit National Geographic content on Pakistan, bin Laden, and the fight against terrorism.
Grenadier Guard on duty at Buckingham Palace, London; Photo by Franc Shor, 1953.
Do you know who the Baron of Renfrew is? It's Prince Charles, father of the groom! If you are planning to watch the royal wedding of William and Kate Middleton this Friday it's time to brush up on London and all things royal. Check out some recent info from our website and then take a trip back in time through the pages of National Geographic, with articles and photos showing the royal traditions and pageantry that will be echoed this week. Best wishes to the happy couple!
Cell phone; photo by Jeanne Modderman, 2007.
April 22nd is Earth Day. Mark the day by learning what happens to your e-waste, possibly despite your best efforts. You have generated e-waste if you've ever discarded a computer, monitor, cell phone, or television. Chris Carroll reported in the 2008 National Geographic article, High-Tech Trash, that "in the United States it is estimated that more than 70% of discarded computers and monitors, and well over 80% of TVs, eventually end up in landfills..."
Maybe you are taking your e-waste to an appropriate recycling center and assuming it will be disposed of properly. It may be, but then again, the recycler may be selling it to the developing world for the conductive components and precious metals. What is released along with the valuable components is chromium, beryllium, and other toxic elements. Read the article to find out what the European Union and the United States are doing to lessen the impact of these toxic recyclables. Photos by Peter Essick show who's paying the price for working with the hazardous e-waste, and an interactive diagram shows what's inside your computer and monitor.
How to help? Check out E-cycling Etiquette to find out who has pledged to safely dispose of e-waste, and the Environmental Protection Agency's page on eCycling to find out where you can take your old electronics for safe disposal in your region. Then take an e-waste quiz and find out if you are now a knowledgeable e-waste recycler.
Does recycling always make sense? Tom Zeller, Jr. tackles this question in a short companion article, Recycling: The Big Picture. Zeller examines the cycle of manufacturing and where recycling fits in. He also explains the concept of "extended producer responsibility" and how European Union manufacturers shoulder some of the burden of recycling packaging debris.
From left: Aptenodytes forsteri (Emperor penguin), Inkayacu paracasensis, and Eudyptula minor (Little penguin)
Nothing is black-and-white, it seems. Not even penguins. That’s what University of Texas paleontologist Julia Clarke found after unearthing 36-million- year-old remains in Peru’s Paracas National Reserve—the first penguin fossil ever found with evidence of feathers intact. Like its present-day relatives, Inkayacu paracasensis was a deft swimmer. Unlike them, it weighed more than a hundred pounds and sported a coat with ruddy feathers. Clarke’s team deduced the color last year after comparing tiny pigment packages called melanosomes from the fossilized plumage with those of living species. This part of coastal Peru has recently produced other big penguin finds. Clarke says the area could be key to painting the full picture of the birds’ evolution. For now, a touch of color has been applied. —Catherine Zuckerman
Art: Mauricio Antón. Photo: Julia Clarke, University of Texas at Austin. NGM Maps
Since our first post, this blog has addressed the history of cartography at National Geographic, geographic names (toponyms), and even the cartographic exploits of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the American artist best known for the painting "Whistler's Mother." I hope that these topics have proven of interest to some if not all of you. But what we have not addressed is the personal more intimate side of cartography here at the Society.
Unquestionably, National Geographic is the place to be if you love the science as well as the art of mapmaking. Our production schedules are full of stimulating and challenging projects that often test our knowledge of the cartographic profession. Once in a while, we will be assigned a project so close and near to our hearts that it becomes an overriding passion. Several months ago, I was given such an assignment—a large format (36" x 24") political map of Cuba.
A photographer as well as a photo editor, David Arnold traveled to Alaska for a story in October 1977.
Photo editors are the behind-the-scenes heroes of a photographer’s work. The editor sees every single frame and picks up on every mistake and missed opportunity. Then he or she uses everything at hand to correct, coach, and inspire.
David L. Arnold was the best of the best. He was not easy to please, but I trusted his judgment, even when his criticism was tough to hear. When he told me I’d made a memorable photograph, I trusted that too.
One of those memorable photographs was of a honeycreeper, a beautiful bird native to the forests of Hawaii. I’d spent five days on a tiny platform 30 feet off the ground waiting for that bird. I was cold and wet. The tree I sat in swayed alarmingly. The photo I finally made wasn’t good enough, David gently told me. He encouraged me to go back and do better, supporting my obsession to get it right. I repaid his support with a photograph of the bird that ran on the September 1995 cover.
David died a few months ago. He’d retired from the magazine in 1994 after 27 years of inspiring photographers. But his spirit can still be seen and felt. He was a role model for Kathy Moran, who photo edited this month’s story on the Great Barrier Reef. “I learned from David to be honest with photographers at all cost,” she says. “I learned that to edit a story you need to know the subject thoroughly. David always did his homework. He had a Ph.D. in every story he worked on.”
David pushed photographers to think about how best to tell the story. He had an unshakable belief in excellence. These are lessons I have taken to heart. I would not be Editor in Chief of this magazine if I had not worked with him.
Photo: Courtesy Arnold Family