geographical photography

Seal on whale

By Robyn Malcolm, Dimex.com

In this photo taken in Australia in September 2015 is seen a seal surfing on the back of a humpback whale. Scientists are not sure what happens after this unusual behavior. It’s possible the seal is just having a good time, says Michael Napier, an animal expert at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

In this week’s Spotlight essay, Exploring Alaska’s Roadside Glaciers, Emily Epstein features Anchorage-based photographer Mark Meyer, who races against climate change to photograph as many of Alaska’s glaciers as possible. 

A hiker photographs the opening of a moulin—a tunnel that courses though the glacier—in the ceiling of a cave under the Mendenhall Glacier, June 16, 2014. Glacial caves are constantly changing; this cave collapsed a few weeks after this photograph was taken. (Mark Meyer)

An ice wall and exposed crevasse in the Matanuska Glacier, July 22, 2016. (Mark Meyer)

Early morning in front of the Worthington Glacier near Valdez, July 3, 2016. This is the view from an observation deck that is just a short walk from a parking lot and a paved trail. (Mark Meyer)

Ice climbers near the bottom of the ice falls on the Matanuska Glacier, July 22, 2016. During the summer months, guided ice-climbing trips—ranging from simple introductions to the sport to all-day, intensive courses—are available from local guides. (Mark Meyer)

The glaciers don’t crush all the rocks they transport. Those that remain intact are deposited as the glacier retreats and are known as “erratics.” Erratics can range in size from enormous boulders the size of buildings to small boulders, like this one near the terminus of the Matanuska Glacier, July 29, 2009. (Mark Meyer)

A climber scales the face of one of the Matanuska Glacier seracs, July 22, 2016. (Mark Meyer)

An ice “beach” along a supra-glacial lake on the Matanuska Glacier, July 2009. Lakes of melt water often form on glaciers; they can be stable and last for years or ephemeral, quickly draining when crevasses open under the surface. (Mark Meyer)

A guide uses crampons to climb over a moulin on the Mendenhall Glacier, June 16, 2014. Moulins form when melt water and runoff find small cracks and depressions in the glacial surface and erode the ice, creating tunnels. The moulins can be dangerous and extremely deep, leading into the internal plumbing of the glacier. (Mark Meyer)

A hiker (bottom right) is dwarfed by the massive, heavily crevassed ice fall where the Harding Icefield begins its descent into Exit Glacier, August 27, 2016. (Mark Meyer)

Helicopters ferry tourists above the Mendenhall Glacier for aerial views, July 26, 2012. Although several vistas are reachable by foot, many visitors opt to go up in helicopters—a quicker, if more expensive, option. (Mark Meyer)

Jessica Taft pauses above the Harding Icefield, August 27, 2016. The ice field is thousands of feet thick, but it does not completely cover the mountains; those peaks that stick through are called “nunataks,” from the Inuit word for “lonely peak.” (Mark Meyer)

Beni Amer Boy

Growing up as kid, it seemed like every Eritrean household in the diaspora had this boy’s image on their wall. His inviting smile; his big pearly whites; his mud-stiffened ringlets hairdo known as the tiffa and tribal scars on his cheeks made him a memorable face. Although no one knows his name for certain, he does have a few aliases Eritreans commonly refer to him by, including Beni-Amer boy and smiling boy.

So who is he?

Despite being one of the most recognized images among Eritreans, we still don’t know much about him. All we know is this iconic picture was taken in 1965 by James P. Blair, a retired National Geographic photographer. We also know the picture was shot in Tesseney, Eritrea, a mid-size town near the Sudanese border. Aside from these few facts, there isn’t much information to go on.

Judging by the boy’s face, he seems to be between 14-16 years of age when Mr. Blair took his picture. Since the image was taken 48 years ago, this would make him around 62-64 years old today, assuming he’s still alive, of course. While this information is nice to know, it still doesn’t give inklings about his personal life. Unfortunately, we are still left with rumors to fill this void.

Rumors

Lack of information about people usually results in rumors. Among the most entertaining ones about him is he was allegedly given a modeling job by Crest, a toothpaste company based in America. Another one of my favorites is a French model tourist visiting Tesseney was struck by his good looks and married him and took him to Paris with her. Perhaps the most plausible rumor is he allegedly joined the Eritrean Revolution and was martyred in the late 1960s.

Controversy

Since Ethiopia annexed Eritrea in 1962, National Geographic presented him to the world as an Ethiopian boy. Additionally, the Ethiopian tourist agencies during the Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam administrations used his image extensively to promote Ethiopian tourism. As a result, he became well known among Ethiopians, too. Even today, his image can be seen in many Ethiopian restaurants and households.

Beni-Amers

The Beni-Amers, who are generally classified as the largest subgroup within the Tigre ethnic group, are named after Amer Ibn Kunnu, a 15th century CE founder of the clan. In fact, their name literally means “sons of Amer”. They live mostly in south west Eritrea and around the Eritrean-Sudanese border. Although their original language was Bedawi (Beja/Hidareb), today they speak Tigre as their first language.