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A constellation of orbs, rings, and halos hangs above the Greenland ice sheet. These optical phenomena occur when ice crystals—suspended by powerful winds called piteraqs—refract sunlight.

End of the Earth

This story appears in the March 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine.

What does nothing look like? I traveled all the way to Greenland to find out. In the space of three years, I made six trips there from my home in Australia. I was drawn to the polished white emptiness of the place—a landscape devoid of features, perfectly flat, with ice extending to the horizon in every direction.

Shooting in this remote location was cold, hard work. I lived for months at a time in a tent on the Greenland ice sheet, where windchills plunged below -60°F and ground blizzards blew for days. At the worst times I imagined my family, my children, and I thought, I can’t do this. It’s not worth the risk.

But I stuck it out, and as the weather improved, so did my mood—and my pictures. When you exist for long periods in a void, the external and internal worlds blur together. The mind slows and becomes sensitive to any change; the slightest shift in light or weather is dramatic. The photography I created during those long months became an exhibition series and a documentary that capture the feeling of being there: It was, as the film’s title says, like Nothing on Earth.

Grasping Infinity

Out on the ice in Greenland, Murray Fredericks talks about what it’s like to work where the landscape is “beyond the scale of what the mind can take in.”