Exploring the Arctic Seafloor: Photographs by Chris Linder

Topic: The Nature of Science Subtopic: The Scientific Process

Case Study

of an Exhibit

by Chris Linder

Published on August 07, 2009

  • Description and goals

    Embark on an expedition to the bottom of an ice-covered ocean– thirty photographs and other media take you on an icebreaking ship through the frozen Arctic world, and give you a first-ever look at mysterious undersea mountains near the North Pole.

    Deep beneath Arctic ice and miles of sunless water lie what are arguably the remotest places on earth: awe-inspiring ranges of unexplored volcanic mountains more foreign than the surface of Mars. But recently, an international team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution set out to plumb the secrets of this Arctic seafloor. Using ingeniously invented robotic divers, the expedition set out for the Gakkel Ridge, parts of which seethe with geysers escaping from beneath the ocean bottom. What strange life forms would the expedition find in such extreme conditions, living off super-heated fluids spurting from beneath the seafloor?

    Color photographs, a sample of rock from the ocean floor, a computer kiosk, and a 3-D model of underwater mountains portray this expeditionÂ’s quest, its exploratory equipment, and the extraordinary work of the scientists aboard the ship.

    This exhibition was created by Chris Linder, with the collaborative assistance of The Field Museum and graphics professionals at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Funding for this exhibit was provided through the Live from the Poles grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

    Components – The exhibit includes 29 framed photos (frame sizes: 5 @ 48"h x 68"w, 2 @ 56"h x 40"w, and 22 @ 24"h x 32"w), 2 framed mosaics of the seafloor (frame size: 28"h x 68"w), 5 interpretive panels (36"h x 24"w), a 3’ wide x 6’ long 3D foam model of the Gakkel Ridge with base and protective vitrine case, and a multimedia kiosk showcasing more photos and videos from the expedition.

    Development process
    - We were particularly pleased with the innovative way that we chose to present the photographs. The prints were made on a Fuji Crystal Archive “Pearl” surface, which highlighted the blues in the prints and gave them just a little bit of a metallic sheen. Since the exhibit is designed to travel we opted to frame each print. Instead of a standard frame, we chose frames that would ‘float’ the print from the wall. To do this, the framer sandwiched each print between 2 pieces of plexi and then put a mat around the border. This allows the wall to ‘show through’ as a border around the print. While this does mean that imperfections in the wall could be distracting, overall we liked the effect of having the print appear to ‘float’ away from the wall, yet still be protected.

    Lessons learned
    - Crating the 3D model was a challenge due to its size and weight. The crate supplied by the manufacturer was not sturdy enough, so we had to commission a custom-built crate just for the models.

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