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plastic & water pollution

70 Degrees West | Justin Lewis Photography | Michelle Stauffer

To fully see the reality of plastic pollution in our oceans, it may help to recap how it all begins. Plastic is made from crude oil using a procedure that affects the carbon in the oil, creating long chains of carbon atoms called polymers. It is defined by the organic chemistry of the polymer chain, which contains carbon, oxygen, sulfur or nitrogen, and has different molecular structures which influence the property of the plastic. Plastic also contains other additives, mostly plasticizers, which allows the plastic to be flexible like a food wrapper, or become stronger for electronic products. Fillers are also used to improve the product and reduce production costs. The result, pliable or sturdy plastic, ready for a vast array of uses. Read more

a plastic ocean

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Plastic is a seemingly innocuous substance that has woven it’s way across the globe and into every phase of our lives. From birth onward, we depend on plastic as a vehicle or component for a variety of products – baby bottles, polyester apparel, food packaging,  canned goods, lotions, chewing gum, facial scrubs, and the list appears to be nauseatingly endless. So if plastics are a part of daily life, it can’t be bad for us or the planet, can it? Read more

Bermuda touchdown and the Sargasso Sea

The Bermuda Triangle holds a different definition in each of our minds. It’s a vortex of wild weather, a mysterious energy field, or simply a remote place to dramatize the sinking of ships from centuries past. In truth, no single answer exists. Rather it is a collection of various forces at work, much like the many aspects of life. Humans have a dynamic way of shifting through the peaks and troughs of times inevitable progression. I was reminded of this when we touched down on the small island of Bermuda.

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plastic pollution – phase III kickstarter

As we continue to unfold the story of the Penobscot Watershed in Maine and discover more about the importance of free-flowing rivers, we are happy to share some new developments in the next phase of 70 Degrees West.

We are in the planning stages of our next phase – Plastic Pollution in the Sargasso Sea. As we research deeper into this issue, we are continually shocked and deeply troubled by what is happening in our oceans on a global level. With an estimated 7 million tons of trash dumped into the oceans each year, it’s important to understand what’s happening and how we each play a role in affecting the state of our oceans; either adding to their degradation, or supporting their health. Every year this threat to both human and marine life gets worse, and something must be done now before it’s too late.

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Thule Hunter

We want to begin today by thanking all of our followers who have been with us from the beginning. It is with your encouragement, faith, and continued interest in our project that keeps us heading south along the 70 degrees west longitude. To our new fans, you give us inspiration and the reminder that people are listening, and these stories need to be shared.

After two months in the arctic circle, months of editing still photographs and video footage, we are pleased to release our Greenland trailer, THULE HUNTER. Stay tuned for the Greenland documentary short in the coming months!

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through the lens

A great image requires a delicate combination of many things – light, timing, subject matter, composition, equipment, and skill. As a photographer and writer, our tools and talents dictate the results seen by a world audience. Hiking through dense woods, swarmed by biting insects, we wait for the moment when the light begins to dance. Although there is no formula for producing a stunning image, Justin would say it comes down to good use of light, a compelling subject matter, a creative composition, and the right lens. Photography tells a story through a single image. Images are changing the way we see the world, and we choose to dedicate our practice to effective and creative storytelling.

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earth’s natural resources

* Measuring 73 feet high and spanning the 695 foot wide gorge, the Ripogenous Dam was built in 1920 and initially constructed to control flow in the river for the movement of pulp. In the 1950‘s, a tunnel was drilled in the rock from the dam to McKay Station where driving turbines began providing hydroelectric power. The dam and power station are currently in use. Read more

nature: the greatest escape

*Chimney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine Read more

the penobscot river, maine

“Not very many people take their families camping anymore,” she sighted. “People just don’t spend as much time out in nature on the rivers as they used to.” Susan Adams is the property manager at Big Eddy campground, a pristine camp nestled long the west branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. A warm breeze carries the misty rush of a nearby rapid, and is you pause just long enough, you can almost hear nature smiling.

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our story

Since announcing our project and boarding a plane bound for the northern most inhabited place on the planet, people ask us, how, why, and who are you two that you guys can do this? Sometimes I manage to answer these questions with an elegant interpretation, other times, I ask myself the same thing. Like many great things in life, sometimes they seem too far off in an unrealistic place that dreaming is the closest you get to them. For us, it came down to taking a leap of faith for something we believed in, embracing the risks, a bit of manifested luck, cultivating our talents and honing our passions into an idea described in a single sentence.

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crossing the northern ice cap

Aquingwak was born and raised in Thule, a thriving settlement of Inuits until 1953. When the United States came to build a remote army base on Greenland’s shores, they choose Thule as the most strategic position. Instead of building elsewhere, they preceded to relocate the population of Thule dwellers in order to construct the base. Thule became Qaanaaq, sixty miles north, and the northern most municipality on the planet continued on. Aquingwak remembers pieces of the great move from his fading childhood memories. Read more

the taste of oil

We all know the price we pay at the pump is far from the true cost of oil. We casually slide the nozzle into our tanks and oscillate between comments about the staggering jump or all time low cost of gasoline. What we rarely consider is the route in which each drop of oil takes to appear effortlessly at the pump for our disposal. The global population is increasing, and in return, so is the demand on Earth’s natural resources.

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a peek behind the scenes: Ice dive in Disko Bay

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polar realities

It is true that if an Inuit hunter were to see two polar bears, instead of hunting just one which could be shared among a small community, most hunters will shoot them both. Because of the strict quotas in place that limit the number of animals to be hunted each year, sharing the kill with between different families has become a way of the past. Now, everything is purchased with money, even between close friends. There is an immense pressure to make the income required to buy the necessary imported food, and as the cost of living in Greenland is extraordinarily high, most feel as if there is no other choice. They must hunt more than was needed in the past, enough to sell the skins, meat and ivory for how else could they meet the demands of their modern lifestyles? And I know what you may be thinking, but there is no returning from this dependency on the contemporary way of life. The past is lost in translation as there is no written history, the current reality is tangled between excessive hunting versus the necessity to support a family in the twenty-first century and as a result, the future of Greenland is changed permanently. Read more

the modern day Polar Eskimo

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circle of life

For all of those who love undersea creatures and cringe at the acts of shark fining and whale hunting for profit, we agree with absolution. For those who reflect negatively upon the killing of ocean dwellers regardless of a result aimed at financial gain or nutritional sustenance, I would like to tell you a story about Greenland and a culture that survives off the freedom to hunt for food. Hunting for food in order to sustain life is the nature of all creatures on land and underwater. In most places, humans no longer have to hunt for food, humans don’t have to fear a rise or dip in certain animal or fish populations that they depend upon to live. Walking to the grocery market supplies most of us with the necessities to not only survive, but to live quite comfortably. Read more

thrity six paws

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people of qaanaaq


An elderly man sits atop his front porch watching the world pass by. Upon approaching him, he tells us he has Parkinson’s as he looks down at his shaking hand. His English ends at that and he nods silently when we request his attention for a picture. Read more

fixing a hole

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the golden hours

When ‘golden hour’ lasts 5 hours and stretches from 10pm to 4am, your world slips into another reality that becomes clearly distinguishable from the one you used to know. Jeans, kale and chai tea seem like an idea I once thought I couldn’t live without, now I reflect upon a vastly different reality with a similar sense of dependency. When you step outside to greet a purple sky dancing upon a stretch of icebergs among the frozen sea ice with snow covered mountains perceivable in the distant horizon, you understand why people need this place. Despite Qaanaaq being the northern most inhabited place on the planet and more remote than most places, there is a peace throughout the land. Rather it is a magic that gently creeps inside when you’re busy trudging through the snow, a beauty unsurpassed that words fall short when attempting to capture something so indefinable. Although the terrain lends itself to beautiful panoramic images, it doesn’t come without a level of harshness.

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