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The sky over Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, churns with light from an aurora borealis. An aurora borealis sends ribbons of yellow-green light through the sky over northern Canada.
A subdued aurora fills the sky above the Mackenzie River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
A long exposure shows star trails behind a red-and-green aurora in Canada's Northwest Territories. Light from an aurora borealis swirls over Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories. A cascade of rose-tinted light surges through the sky in an aurora borealis over northern Canada. A walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) lounges on ice in the Bering Sea, Alaska.Walruses are social animals, often living in groups of over a hundred individuals.


Ira Block was a 27-year-old photographer with one National Geographic assignment under his belt when he was asked to cover legendary Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura’s attempt to be the first person to journey alone to the North Pole. It was 1978, and in those days things worked a bit differently in the magazine’s photography department than they do now. The story of the 37-year-old explorer who was the first to trek alone to the North Pole and the 27-year-old photographer on his first trip to the Arctic made the cover of the September 1978 issue. This month, the Japanese edition of National Geographic—the very first of our local-language editions—is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Auroras occur when charged particles outside the Earth's atmosphere collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere. Savvy to the fact that the success of this explorer’s journal would rely on the combination of his photos, along with Uemura’s own accounting of his days while alone, he spent time teaching Uemura the basics of using the camera National Geographic had provided, even modifying the camera with a large shutter release button so that Uemura could take photographs while wearing his thick gloves.
Thanks to Uemura’s care, four survived and were taken back with their mother to base camp. Today this might be achieved by sending an email or maybe even calling via satellite phone, but back then, this involved hand-delivery. Download Nat Geo View, National Geographic’s new bite-size daily digest app for the iPhone.
I still cannot believe that he did not come back from McKinley in the winter of 1984 – only 6 years from this story.
In the process, Block became adept at cold weather photography himself, no small feat in a climate where the film would become brittle and streaked with static electricity marks.


Instead it was filled with pressure ridges, hills of ice that Naomi would have to cut through in order to move his dogs and sledge forward,” Block wrote in a recount of the journey for the Japanese edition of National Geographic. Who better to do this than Block, who had mastered the logistics of navigating the polar climes? Each day editors select Proof posts, as well as our best pictures, stories, and videos, and send them straight to your iPhone. The assignment for a young photographer must have been life changing; for that, I am envious.
The phenomenon is called aurora borealis or northern lights in the Northern Hemisphere and aurora australis or southern lights in the Southern Hemisphere.
Uemura had since moved on to circumnavigate Greenland, so Block met him out on the ice, manuscript in hand. Check out all National Geographic has to offer in an elegant, easy-to-use app you can tap into wherever you are today.



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