National Geographic

What Vikings Would See, If They Could Fly

National Geographic

Robert B. Haas has an undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, so one might think he'd have the sense not to dangle out of helicopters for fun. But Haas just might spend more time in the air than on the ground. Over the past few years, he has made a career transition into a niche vocation: aerial photography.

Haas has now published three books of landscapes seen from the bird's eye view. Through the Eyes of the Gods and Through the Eyes of the Condor show Africa and Latin America, respectively. The latest installment in his aerial series is Through The Eyes Of The Vikings. And for someone who admittedly "can't stand the cold," Haas had his work cut out for him.

  • Tributaries of Lynn Canal, a spectacularly deep fjord in Alaska, wind across a muddy plain to empty into a blue-green bay.
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    Tributaries of Lynn Canal, a spectacularly deep fjord in Alaska, wind across a muddy plain to empty into a blue-green bay.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • Snowmobile tracks cross the surface of a melting pond in Kiruna, Sweden.
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    Snowmobile tracks cross the surface of a melting pond in Kiruna, Sweden.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • Bergs and boulders form islands of ice and rock in the basin of Red Glacier, Alaska.
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    Bergs and boulders form islands of ice and rock in the basin of Red Glacier, Alaska.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • Industrial byproducts swirl at a waste treatment facility on Langoya Island, Norway.
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    Industrial byproducts swirl at a waste treatment facility on Langoya Island, Norway.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • Clusters of recycling are pooled beside a lumber facility near the port city of Karlsborg, Sweden.
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    Clusters of recycling are pooled beside a lumber facility near the port city of Karlsborg, Sweden.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • A polar bear pauses on a bed of kelp on Cape Churchill in Manitoba, Canada.
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    A polar bear pauses on a bed of kelp on Cape Churchill in Manitoba, Canada.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • Sunlight is reflected along Alaska's Neacola River.
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    Sunlight is reflected along Alaska's Neacola River.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic
  • A clam digger pokes along Cook Inlet in Clam Gulch, Alaska.
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    A clam digger pokes along Cook Inlet in Clam Gulch, Alaska.
    Robert Haas/National Geographic

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Obviously a thrill-seeker, Haas deliberately puts himself in undesirable situations. He may not like the cold. "But somehow I am drawn to the romance and the challenge of facing the Arctic," he writes in the book's introduction. He continues:

Whether in myth or in fact, the Vikings call to mind a hardy and adventurous spirit of exploration and enterprise. The cool stare of a Viking in the slit beneath fur-lined headgear and above a craggy length of beard betrayed a willingness to face risk, eyeball-to-eyeball, to witness sights that others had not seen before and capture bounty that might one day become the stuff of legend.

Three years of photographing have yielded more than 100 Arctic scenes, with a surprising variety of landscape, color and life. Unfortunately, Haas doesn't have a website. Perhaps that will be his next undesirable adventure.

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