Gulf of Mexico
Tyrone Turner - A view of the glaciers and mountains from the Gerlache Strait on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula in February 2022.

LA - See the ties that bind Antarctica and Louisiana through one photographer's lens

As frigid wind whipped across the ship's bow, I held the railing with one hand and steadied my camera with the other. In front of me stretched the Bellingshausen Sea, off the coast of Western Antarctica. I was there — my second journey to the region around the southernmost continent — early this year on a five-week voyage as a photographic expert aboard the National Geographic Endurance.

Editor's note: As the 2022 U.N. Climate Change Summit convenes, NPR's Picture Show is featuring work by photographers that highlights the effects of climate change around the world.

A small group of passengers and I stood on the deck together, wrapped up tightly against the below-freezing temperatures, documenting this otherworldly landscape.

Pancakes of sea ice covered the waters as far as the eye could see. A lone emperor penguin tucked its head into its chest of feathers. As we sailed past seals resting on the ice, they raised their heads and promptly slid into the water. This frozen world seemed so different and foreboding — and yet, at the same time, familiar. In a strange way, I felt connected to my subtropical birthplace thousands of miles away — in the coastal regions of southeastern Louisiana.

The diptychs in this essay portray this connection by pairing my images of Antarctica with those of Louisiana. It is a visual dance of rhythms and patterns of two places so far apart, and yet whose fates are inextricably linked. Because, for me, combining photographs from the two enhances my understanding of each one. Beyond connecting the two places, it's also an exercise of connecting our actions to consequences far into the future and across the globe.

I grew up along New Orleans' 17th Street canal, running along levees and paddling pirogues in search of turtles. My brother and I watched otters play in the brackish water of a nearby swamp. Bayous and marshes bisected and surrounded the city as well as our daily lives. Over the past 20 years, I've documented the rich culture of my hometown and the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, photographing the impact of disasters on the environment and the communities it sustains.

Hurricane Katrina — once such disaster — ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, killing more than 1,800 people. The storm destroyed 30 square miles of coastal wetlands and burst through New Orleans' levees, flooding 80% of the city.

Five years later, the BP oil disaster killed 11 rig workers and pumped four million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico — the largest oil spill in U.S. marine history. Hundreds of miles of fragile Louisiana coast were coated. The oil suffocated the vulnerable marsh grasses, whose roots hold the land in place. The vegetation died and the mud washed away, increasing existing coastal erosion by almost 300%, according to researchers at Louisiana State University.

Long ago, ice shaped Louisiana. As the last ice age in North America retreated more than 12,000 years ago, melting glacial runoff carved out the Mississippi River basin. For thousands of years after that, the seasonal unfettered flooding of the Mississippideposited sediment in the low delta region and built up the southern part of the state. Starting in the late 19th century, Congress tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with building levees to control the river to improve navigation and provide for flood protection. Paradoxically, what seemed good for urban expansion and industrialization along the Mississippi River gradually starved the wetlands of the sediment needed to rebuild and counteract natural subsidence.

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