Ashburn Teen Frames Antarctic Experience

Ashburn Teen Frames Antarctic Experience

August 2, 2002

If pictures can tell a story, then 16-year-old Lindsay Long's pictures have a very cold story to tell.

The Ashburn girl participated in an 18-day research expedition in January to study the history, wildlife and ecosystem of the Antarctica Peninsula and its surrounding islands. She brought her cameras along and took 900 photographs, 500 on digital and the rest on film.

"I wanted to be able to remember Antarctica the way I saw it, not by changing things," Lindsay said, adding that she avoided zooming in on images and making other adjustments, such as to the shutter speed or aperture.

"Most of the images were done full-frame," said Lindsay's mother Pamela Oldham, a freelance writer and independent marketing and public relations consultant who has worked with photographers in the past. "It was like she was looking through the photo frame when she was shooting the images."

Lindsay's photographs caught the attention of Neil Steinberg and K D Kidder, a husband-and-wife team that owns Photoworks in Leesburg, when Lindsay dropped off her film to have prints made.

"The subject matter was interesting, and the images were good, [so] we wanted to do a show," Steinberg said. "It's an alien landscape most people never get to see. This is a first-hand account."

STEINBERG AND KIDDER invited Lindsay to display some of her photographs in Photowork's upstairs gallery for the two-day show, which will take place Aug. 2-3. Lindsay used her baby-sitting money to pay for the framing of 25 of the images, along with the matting and backing she needed for another 25 images for "A Teenager's Journey to Antarctica."

"I was very surprised and excited for her," Oldham said. "I was so impressed with the photographs when I saw them. She came back with these incredible shots."

Lindsay entered a lottery drawing at Foxcroft School near Middleburg and was one of 26 students selected to join students from Hotchkiss School during the school's two-week interim, when students can choose their subjects of study. She departed for the expedition on Jan. 2 and traveled to New York. From there, she flew to Chile, then to Argentina with another 80 adults and students.

After exploring several historical ruins, the students and adults returned to Chile, where on Jan. 8 they boarded the "Explorer," a 250-foot research and touring vessel. They arrived to Antarctica on Jan. 12, staying for four days before heading to the Falkland Islands for a one-day visit and returning to Chile on Jan. 19 to return home.

"I learned that Antarctica is a fragile place that you need to protect and learn from," said Lindsay, who will be a junior this year at Foxcroft, an independent, all-girls college preparatory school. "If anything were to happen to it, the world would lose something wonderful and beautiful ... the last wilderness on earth not touched by humans."

DURING THE TRIP, the students participated in daily Zodiac landings while they were in the Antarctic area. They put on life vests and used 12-foot rubber boats to conduct landings on shore, where they could study plant and animal life. Lindsay said she saw six species of penguins, four species of seals and two species of whales during the landings.

"It was very cool. They'd come right up to you," Lindsay said. "They had no fear of humans."

Besides the landings, the students attended two lectures a day given by Antarctic experts, ecologists and marine biologists on subjects varying from whales and penguins to algae and two types of flowering plants. The students also visited three research stations, including the U.S. Palmer Research Station on the Antarctica Peninsula.

"I want to show everyone what I saw .... Antarctica needs to be protected," Lindsay said. "I want others to know about Antarctica, to understand what is there, so they will value it and preserve it."

A mandate of the expedition is for students to share their experiences.

"Lindsay's taken that quite seriously," Oldham said. "When she came back, she was all geared up to share her experiences with others, so they would help preserve Antarctica."

BESIDES the gallery show, Lindsay plans to speak to school groups, turn 10 hours of videos and the 900 photographs into a documentary and write a book from her journal notes, "her brand of community service," Oldham said.

At the same time, Lindsay had a chance to learn about marine biology, a field she was considering as a possibility before her trip.

"It was a life-changing experience. I got to explore who I was while I was there," Lindsay said. "I had the idea I wanted to be a marine biologist and going to Antarctica confirmed that."

Lindsay said the next time she visits Antarctica, she wants to be leading her own research team on a continent that has been set aside for wildlife and scientific research.

"I think every chance a teenager has to explore different careers and experiences will help them as they grow older," Oldham said.