Antarctic Dominoes

People often ask if we see evidence of climate change working in Antarctica. The short answer is yes: the shrinking of ice shelves has increased 70% in the last decade. Check out this story on NPR.

“It’s toppling the domino. You don’t push quite hard enough and nothing happens. You push a little harder and it falls over.”

Source: MODIS/NASA via NPR
An example of how quickly things can change: In 2002, the Antarctic’s Larsen B ice shelf collapsed in just three weeks. It was the size of Rhode Island. Source: MODIS/NASA

heaven

6:12

My heart swelled inexplicably
when I turned the key

and caught the scent
of something lovely, coming from the kitchen.

I dropped my loaded bag
and clowned a heart-attack

when my son came running from his room
and gripped my thumbs, and balanced on my shoes.

And as I broke into our nightly dance—
his graceless, middle-aged old man,

I knew: that I will be content
if this is all the heaven that we’re granted.

-Patrick Phillips

via One More Salute to Vanity

Ice Caves of the Erebus Glacier Tongue

There are ice caves that grow and disappear within the edges of the tongue that ruptures out from the Erebus Glacier. Every year they are different, and the mountaineers who work with the Field Safety department discover them and decide whether they are safe for entry.

We went out on snowmobiles, cold air and two-stroke motor exhaust trailing behind us, stopped in sudden silence at the base, stark and soft like bones in the desert. Ethereal rooms with smooth sculptors’ ridges on the walls, fuzzy stalactites of ice dripping from the ceiling. Turquoise to violet ice, moving air in the farthest secret recesses like the glacier breathing on your skin.

IMG_9562

IMG_9572

IMG_9606

Ice Caves deep2

IMG_9629

IMG_9663

Ice Caves jump

Sea Ice, Cape Evans and Scott’s Hut Photo Extravaganza!

In November my department had the opportunity to take McMurdo’s sea ice training course, teaching vehicle operators how to profile cracks in the sea ice to determine if the surface could withstand the weight of the vehicle and whether it was safe to cross. We’d identify a crack, shovel a trench across it, drill into the ice until sea water gushed out, and drop a special measuring tape into the water.

IMG_9215

IMG_9257

Sea Ice Drilling copy

There were Weddell seals along the road, not paying us any mind, dappled skin stretched across fatty heft, sighing and breathing across the frost—the holes they came out of a few feet away, littered with expelled bits of ice and blood.

IMG_9259

Sea Ice Erebus

IMG_9270

Our teacher was awesome, taking us to see things nearby, profiling cracks along the way. We entered an ice amphitheater, a brilliant curved elbow hollow, pocked shining walls and gargantuan feathered veins running up 80 feet. We placed our hands on icebergs’ solemn, glistening faces, being present with bodies much older than ourselves.

Sea Ice Big Blue Berg

Scott’s Hut on Cape Evans was a few miles away, a hundred year old building where the explorers spent three winters. Penguin carcasses, primitive ice cleat boots made of fur and canvas, crates of tea and potted meats. A darkroom full of tiny bottles, old spooky chemicals. A dog’s skeleton, still chained to the stable. It smelled like dust and hay and seal blubber, and written on one of the bunks in very light pencil, “Losses to date: Haywood, Mack, Smyth, Shak (?)” (I read later that Shackleton was missing at that point, his fate still uncertain).

It was an amazing day!

IMG_9343

IMG_9342

IMG_9285

IMG_9287

IMG_9297

IMG_9351-001

Resolve.

This happens to me every season on ice: it’s 6 weeks until the end of summer and I haven’t put up a blog post in approximately eight million years.

One of the reasons I wanted to come back to Antarctica is because it helps me to notice things, to write. And I have been writing, but mostly to myself; journaling and jotting notes on surfaces, my hands, scraps of paper, napkins.

It’s 2015, did you notice? Do you make resolutions? Here are two of my many: 1) I am going to start paying more attention to gratitude, which I will mostly keep to myself but it might leak in here every now and then and 2) I am going to try and post more frequently, even if it’s just a photo.

So let’s start small and then I will back up and catch you up with Antarctic 2014-2015 goings-on, how does that sound?

~

Here is something I am grateful for: for the sound of fluttering ocean current under porous, melting ice. For wind ripples on open water and the blue of the ice under that water, so crisp in the sun. For the unlikely steam rising off of lava soil, and for one little penguin, very far away amongst the seals.

Hut Point Melt

Did you make resolutions? Care to share them?

Heavy lavender clouds over the ice…

A few Sundays ago we walked to Hut point, just outside of town.

Royals and Clouds

 

Hut Point Footsteps

It was windy, smoky streaks of snow filtering through the lava rocks, old compacted footsteps growing from the path on little pedestals.

Hut Point 2

 

Hut Point 1

 

IMG_9145

Adult seals with their pups were loafing on the ice, not worried about the wind.