Chapter eight of Jeremy Jones and Teton Gravity Research's "Further Unplugged" series comes to us again from Svalbard, Norway, where expedition photographer Dan Milner painstakingly snow sculpts a polar bear and a walrus that become the base camp mascots. The ice sculptures attract the eye of Terje Haakonson who sees their curvy lines as the perfect transitions for a trip ending mini-shred session complete with a few signature Haakon handplants.
ESPN caught up with Milner, the ever-witty British photog, to hear more about Philip the polar bear and Rachel the walrus (Yes, he named the pair.) and how it felt to have his beloved sculptures slashed to bits by the Viking shredder.
ESPN: What inspired you to build the animal sculptures?
Milner: I have a degree in Marine Biology, so camping on a remote Arctic island that has such an abundance of marine wildlife, snow-sculpting these two marine mammals just seemed like the thing to do. We were hoping to see Polar bears or Walrus during the trip, but never did, so I thought why not build my own?
It helped having a three-day storm roll in with little else to occupy my time and 24/7 hours of light to work with. I never sculpted snow before. These were my first. They won't be my last I am sure.
Where did the names Rachel and Philip come from?
Svalbard has 3,500 polar bears and who knows how many walrus, so it seemed to me that if they all had names, some at least would have that kind of mundane, run of the mill kind of name like Rachel or Philip or Kevin or something like that. Maybe even a Reginald.
We might think they are incredible animals, but I bet if you knew some personally you'd think some of them were right boring.
How long did it take you to build the sculptures?
I made the mistake of starting with the polar bear. That's quite an ambitious sculpture, first off. I think it took me about four hours in all, including shoveling what amounted to about a ton of snow. Rachel followed up on day two at around two hours in all, including the coloring with cocoa powder.
How did the idea of Terje sessioning the sculptures come about?
The day before we left camp we thought it right to 'sacrifice' them to the Norse god of the Arctic. Who better to do than Terje? I'm just hoping that they made it onto Google Earth or street view before they got hammered.
How did the amazement of watching one of the most famous shredders ever handplant them stack up against the sadness of their destruction?
To this day I still don't know how Terje can ride like that and pull one-footed handplants. But then again, I never saw him build any snow sculptures, so maybe that makes us even?
Seeing them get nailed was a little sad, as it signaled the end to the Svalbard camp session. The two weeks we were camping out were two of the most incredible weeks of my life. It's a stunning place, full of beauty and incredibly unspoiled wildlife. We should make sure it stays that way.