My favourite part of preparing for this summer’s expedition has definitely been hunting for old photographs to retake for our rephotography project. As a team, we wanted to find a way to clearly demonstrate to the public that environmental change is occurring, and reproducing old photographs seemed like an obvious choice. Everyone has seen sets of photos showing how rapidly ice is retreating in many areas of the world, such as this photo of Mt Everest by George Mallory, reproduced years later by David Breashears.
The changes in vegetation that we will see over the last 50 years in Finnmark will be far less dramatic, but should still be visible. Before first heading to the Varanger Peninsula in 2016 we were told stories of waist-high brush, which decades later has changed into small birch trees. Comparing similar photos from 1974 and 2016 gives an indication of the changes that we will see. In the photos below the red arrow marks the same point in each photograph. Changes can be seen, and it will be exciting to return to the area and retake the photos properly.
Tracking down old photos from such a remote area has been challenging at times, but a fun treasure hunt. Oxford University has a great history of sending expeditions to the area over the years to look at the interesting geology. I have very much enjoyed connecting with the members of these expeditions and others, who are now distributed far across the world. They definitely have some stories to tell and hold the area close to their hearts, making me look forward to our coming expedition even more.
Roughly 300 emails later I’ve found about 80 old photos of the area showing vegetation, and there are more to come. Now we’re left with the challenge of trying to locate these as precisely as possible. We can then narrow down the correct view when in the field, and reproduce some of the beautiful photographs that I’ve been given. Hopefully they will provide us with a different insight into how this landscape is changing through time.