Natures driving, says sculptor who put work on drifting iceberg

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Some time over the next few months or years, someone on the Newfoundland coast may look out onto the ocean at the parade of icebergs drifting majestically by and do a double take.
Is that - could it be - a dogsled atop that berg?
That moment of wonder, when surprise opens the door to insight, is what Dutch sculptor Ap Verheggen hopes will carry his message.
"Normally, the dogsled riders are in charge of where the trip is leading to," said Verheggen, who is responsible for the sight.
"Now, they are placed on an iceberg. Nature is in charge."
Last March, Verheggen travelled to the small Greenlandic coastal community of Uummannaq, not far from the famous section of coast where massive chunks of the Greenland ice cap break into the Davis Strait. His plan was to place two sculptures of stylized dogsleds on icebergs and let them drift south until the icebergs melted.
"We wanted to provoke a discussion about climate change in another way than usual," he said from Copenhagen.
The idea was to run the sculptures out to their chosen bergs by dogsled. The sea ice, however, had melted sooner than expected and the statues had to be placed by helicopter.
For weeks the sculptures sat immobile, their icebergs blocked from the open strait by other massive chunks of ice. Last week, however, traffic cleared and Verheggen's work started its long, cold journey.
"The people on the east coast of Canada will see them drift southward," Verheggen said.
The sculptures have been equipped with GPS units and can be tracked on the project's website (
The units will aid recovery of the sculptures if the bergs run aground. If they can't be found, well, they're made of iron, a metal useful to phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain.
Art is a perfectly sensible medium to use to talk about climate change, said Verheggen.
"Climate change is culture change. When you look to the people of Uummannaq, this year they couldn't ride dogsleds because there was no ice and now they have to find solutions, to find a new way in their culture.
"They are not two apart messages. There is only one message. We have to learn to cope with climate change."
Verheggen's project is largely self-financed.
"I didn't earn a penny for two years," he said. "I think my message is more important than my income."
He did, however, get some help from the World Wildlife Fund.
"There's little currency in continuing to speak to the converted," said Clive Tesar of the WWF's international Arctic program.
"Art gives us an opportunity to bridge our message from the converted to people who perhaps haven't considered it or perhaps haven't been exposed to it. The emotional, visceral communication you get from art isn't the same as reading a briefing note on the ramifications of climate change."
Those dogsleds are on their way down the Davis Strait, the route almost all icebergs take before they get to Newfoundland. And if they are spotted by someone out walking the shore at Trinity or Twillingate, it will be appropriate.
"The idea started in Canada," laughs Verheggen.
"I spent 6-7 years travelling all through Canada and the Arctic areas and I have some good friends over there. They always helped to continue in my strange ideas."

Organizations: World Wildlife Fund

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Uummannaq, Canada Copenhagen Arctic Twillingate

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