14 year old passenger's Subantarctic Art Exhibition opens in Canterbury
Fourteen year old Henry Turner, already an established artist at such a young age, travelled with Heritage Expeditions on board our Birding Down Under voyage in November last year. His voyage provided inspiration for his most recent exhibition, which opened at the Selwyn Gallery in Darfield on Friday.
Below, Henry explains in his extremely eloquent way, what travelling to the Subantarctic Islands meant to him.
The wonderful Subantarctics
By Henry Turner 14 years December 2013
Six weeks ago, I could not have possibly guessed that I would soon be embarking on the most amazing and influential experience of my life. I am sure this will remain a highlight for many years to come. To visit these wind wrought isles was the greatest dream of my life, ever since hearing word of them many years ago, and grew as I turned to portraying their wonders on paper. In researching my works, I found out all I could about these wonders of the world to know what I was working into my art. To this end, I found and read thoroughly all I could. It was three years ago I began contemplating the possibility of a visit. I was assured that such an undertaking was difficult, and expensive. Somewhat daunted, I then began to slowly - rather slowly, it has to be said – fill the coffers for the adventure of a lifetime.
Most of what I sold was either of the Southern Alps, my other love, or of the Subantarctic Islands, especially the albatrosses. The names of them were ingrained into my mind, and as I was thrust into the barbaric menagerie that is high school, it cheered me up a good deal to think of being hundreds of kilometers away on a wind blasted, tiny, soggy little island with only birds for company.
Being strangely attracted to dark, rocky, harsh cold and remote spots as far from humanity as possible and with a pad and pastel, the idea of a luxury holiday in a luxury resort on a tourist island on the equator never appealed. I love the dark sultry shades of grey, and the dank greens and algae browns of the islands. It has always filled me with joy to gaze at the mountains, the great forests of Stewart island and other desolate areas to see how life can be ground into the scrub and thrive there, be unique, small and innately beautiful.
To crawl for hundreds of meters into boggy, wet, cold cramped scrub only to gaze upon a tiny, centimeter high orchid in the peat, or to scramble across a wild, storm thrashed boulder beach to see a dotterel take flight gives an incomparable joy, only ever to be matched by being able to capture a shadow of life’s beauty onto paper to record the feelings of awe.
Thus, my heart was set on a visit. I so much wanted to take in their wind warped, salt encrusted environments first hand.
Thanks to Rodney Russ and his enthusiasm for these islands, and his love of art and his unbridled joy at sharing the places he has been so privileged to be such an integral part of. He appreciates that it is the young people who will grow into thoughtful appreciative adults who will need to continue to care for these environments.
Following in Rodney’s footsteps for 18 days, and witnessing the unique environments of these islands I feel, more ingrained than ever, the need to protect them and other places around the world from the ravages of humanity’s excesses. We learned of the relatively recent history of these isles, a poor inhospitable, spot for humans but rich in oily animals. Once discovered it was only a very short time until we moved in and slaughtered all we could find with great vigour but no thought to the future. Pests, hitching a ride, or brought in for food, caused huge further devastation. Such has been the case since humans mastered tool use all those millions of years ago.
When I landed at Macquarie Island, the thrill of seeing so many penguins and the great heaving mass of sea elephants was overwhelming. The penguins, reduced to a tenth of a percent of their number for their oil, have regenerated and now their colonies spread and almost engulf the remains of some of the digesters that rendered down millions of birds. It shows how errors of the past can be redressed.
I worry a lot about the future, and what we are doing to our world. It causes me to stay awake too long in the night. In too many parts of our world there is no wilderness left.
How lucky and priveliged I have been to see the yellow tide of Bulbinella and to be crouching in the scrub so close to the majestic courting Royal Albatross. It was remarkable and exhilarating to see what two million dollars, a paltry sum for large corporations or governments, can do in so little time. The blitz of poisoning that lead to the rat eradication on Campbell Island is extremely heart warming and soul lifting. It shows that after about a hundred years of destruction, incredible gains can be made so quickly. If something is lost , it is lost forever, and for many species this has been their plight. But if a glimmer of life remains, with the right stewardship, the resurgence of life is astounding.
I think that the more people can learn and, within reason, the more that interested people can visit, the better their ability to understand and contribute to the saving of our island treasures. More research is needed to ascertain that the populations are stable, and to monitor the affects of El Niño, global warming and movements of the southern oscillation are having on the unique birds and other life that cling to survival on the specks of land in the vast immensity of the southern oceans. The animals of this region are exquisitely adapted to the sea, but all mammals and birds must breed on land. My journey helped to really appreciate the need for these islands, how their exact position determines the life of so many birds and how vast the Southern Ocean is. Yet despite its massive size there is only so much abuse it can survive.
If I can do anything to repay my good fortune, by helping in conservation or education I would enthusiastically offer my services. Conservation starts at home, in our own back yards, and I am hoping to be able to better protect the Xenicus gilviventris, Rock wren, on Mt Temple, my family’s favourite mountain haunt.
I am still buzzing from the trip and share my experiences with all I can. The trip has given me great inspiration for my art that allows me to express my emotions and wonder for this area. I would strongly recommend this trip to anyone passionate about nature, the oceans, islands or New Zealand. It was a thrill, and I will never forget a second of it.
Category: Subantarctic Islands