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Antarctica: a Chromatic Paradox

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To capture the diversity of life above and below the sea surface in Antarctica, Skye used iconic photographs of the continent and compared color pixels from each image in a vertical bar. Fifty upper bars represent images captured of the land and seascape above the surface, while 50 lower bars represent the vibrant and varied world beneath the waves. The juxtaposition of color and intensity exposes our assumptions of a ‘colorless’ Antarctica and reveals a surprising realm below, on that tends to be neglected in popular dialogue about a quickly warming Antarctic Peninsula. This visualization was produced for The GroundTruth Project with text detailing this polar chromatic dichotomy. It is also exploratory work for Skye’s MFA thesis at Northeastern University’s Information Design and Visualization Program.

For each of the 100 photographs, pixels in the image were sampled from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, and sorted by RGB value. The image area allocated to undersea hues was deliberately emphasized to highlight the abundance and importance of this vibrant life in the Antarctic ecosystem. Three photographs are shown here with their representative pixel bar.

All photographs were taken on the Antarctic Peninsula. Underwater photography was captured by undersea naturalist Paul North of Linblad Expeditions/National Geographic; coding assistance provided by Corey Hoard.