Latitudes 40° and 50° South, these frontiers are both scary and fascinating. They are the gate to the Southern Seas and for all the sailors of the world, they have been the limit of the « unknown » for centuries. They have been called the « roaring forties » and the « furious fifties » because of their winds, the strongest winds of the world.
However, the powerful storms and rough seas are home for a wonderful Nature. In the kingdom on westerly winds, a unique community of seabirds and marine mammals has adapted to these extreme conditions.
Two photographers, Nicolas Gasco and Paul Tixier, have each spent years of their life in the Southern Seas, off the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands. For months, on boats that were totally on their own, they brought unique pictures from this unknown region.
They want to share these pictures with people through a 128 pages book of photography, the first of its kind. Other than a simple testimony from few days spent at sea, this book would show pictures from the experience of a lifetime.
One ocean, two photographic styles
This project has emerged after we came back from our last trips in the Southern Seas.
We chose to combine our photographic work to increase the scope of the pictures taken and the species encountered. However, the main idea was to combine two « photographer’s eyes », with two distinct feelings and backgrounds to tell the story of the Southern Seas.
« The story I wanted to tell through my photographs was a succession of steps as I witnessed it every time I went to the Southern Seas. »
« At first, these seas look like a rough desert in which life could not exist »
« However, after few days spent at sea, the first animals show up, one albatross, and then another one. They use the strong winds to fly just above the waves, without never fapping their wings »
«The killer whales then arrive. They seem to be playing with the huge swell, using the waves to swim more easily. This is their world and the size of the elements they master is way bigger that a human scale.»
« Then Nature abounds. Sea birds like petrels and albatrosses are now thousands. With the killer whale they form unique processions at the sea surface.»
« The community of the Southern Seas is now reunited, until the winds drop. During these rare moments of calm seas, for the first time we can hear the blow of a whale or the sound of a bird flying.»
« For me seascapes are fascinating. Water is always in motion. Every squared inch is changing from one moment to another, winds shape and carve. »
« Seabirds are the witnesses of these seascapes, unlike Man, which has started to go in the roaring forties just recently in History. »
« Every photograph freezes 1/1000s moments, one tiny piece of testimony compared the millions years and the hugeness of this ocean. »
The two photographers
I combine scientific research with wildlife photography. My favorite destinations are the high latitudes, these sanctuaries that are still inhabited by great predators.
After spending several years in the northeastern Pacific where I have trained in photography techniques, I experienced the Southern Ocean for the first time in 2008 through a 3-month trip at sea. It was a totally different world for me, extremely different than the calm waters of the Canadian fjords.. I was there to study killer whales off the Crozet Islands as part of a Ph.D.. Other trips followed after this very first one, and all cumulated, I spent nearly one year in these offshore waters.
The wildlife I encountered in the Southern Seas was truly exceptional, and my pictures have become for me the best way to talk about it. I especially like stormy weathers to take photographs, although some of my camera gear did not always make it…
My first trip in the Southern Seas was in 1994. Back then I worked around the Kerguelen Islands, both on land and in the offshore waters. After spending more than one year there, I immediately went back South. This time it was to work in high seas only, on russian boats that would go offshore for periods of 7 months. This was the first trip and numerous others followed until my last experience in 2010.
All together, I spent more than 4 years of my life in the Southern Seas among killer whales, sperm whales and all the amazing sea birds of this part of the world. I now work for the National Museum of Natural History of Paris.