Arctic Obsession

LOS ANGELES

Beauty and science and a dangerously warming world have all become one in the life and work of biologist-turned-photographer Paul Nicklen.

"I call myself an interpreter and a translator. I translate what the scientists are telling me. He's lived in the Arctic since he was four.

"Where I grew up we had no telephone, no radio, no television. We had no distractions. So, the snow and the ice were my sandbox. I graduated from university - got my marine biology degree, went back to the Arctic," Nicklen said.

Then used his camera to reveal the nature of a world melting away under human-induced global warming.

"They're going to lose the entire extent of sea-ice in the summertime in the Arctic in the next 7 to 15 years. It's going to have such catastrophic effects before the temperatures actually level off. If we lose ice we stand to lose an entire ecosystem. Ice is like soil in the garden - stuff just cannot survive without sea ice. You realize through my photography, I hope, how interconnected these species are to ice," Nicklen said.

Nicklen wants the world's city people to see deeply into a world their greenhouse emissions are changing.

"I see all these species as friends - not as a species that is below me, but as brethren, as friends."

He prefers photos to video. "A picture is always sitting there in front of you. And I think you know it just takes one image to get someone's attention."

Powerful delicate polar bear tracks in vanishing snows.

"I will sometimes spend 24, 48, 72 hours sitting on an ice pan with a group of walrus. I will get to know these walrus to the point they get so relaxed with me that I can rest my head against a walrus and fall asleep with them on the ice. Then one of them slips into the water and it won't feel threatened by me - I can slip into the water with it and get a couple of shots."

The cover of his book of photos, a bear, reflected on the underside of the surface; a big-brained beluga like a white torpedo. And a bear feasting on a beluga: reality, "raw in tooth and claw" - natural, mysterious and beautiful.

"I think we need to let people know what's at stake. But hopefully things will change and in my dream world that things will survive."

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