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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Long Rise: Mark Seth Lender

Air Date: Week of October 26, 2012

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A polar bear running. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

In the far north, in summer months dawn starts early and the light grows almost imperceptibly. One early morning, writer Mark Seth Lender, author of A Salt Marsh Diary, found himself out on the tundra, with three polar bears.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Scientists say ice in the Arctic melted more this year than ever before.
But even as the ice diminishes, the land and landscape in the far north remain stark, strange, and perhaps threatening. At least, that's what writer Mark Seth Lender experienced on a visit to Churchill Wild on Hudson Bay as summer came to a close.


Rainbow over Hudson Bay (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

LENDER: The storm passed in the night. There was a rainbow late in the afternoon, huge even in the vast expanse of Hudson Bay and the rocky flats that stretch for miles and miles. It lasted for a long time, almost till the sun went down. The intervening night is short though the Solstice is more than a month behind us.


Hudson Bay (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The glows that begins at half-past three continues two hours more before the arctic sun (orange, harsh, stripped-down) rises unceremoniously. Unceremonious, because despite the tedium of the waiting when it happens it happens all-at-once. Stripped-down, without a touch of moisture in the air to clothe the nakedness.

Soon, very soon, the sun will not rise at all, and there will be at this latitude only the pale, perpetual dawn of arctic winter night. And this last hour before day is a foreshadowing, the world ruled by the dark of the shoreline, and the sea strangely brighter than the face of the sky, ragged and white-capped, like an old mirror backed in mercury, the polish here and there worn through.


A polar bear comes up on the point. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

In the shadow-lit landscape three polar bears come out of nowhere. They climb up and onto the point. Two together move further out. One stays, a cutout of bear just above the distant crease of horizon. He is a mountain, of darkness, the hump of shoulders and the bump of hips two worn peaks. And suddenly I am seen. And suddenly, he runs. This startles the other two and they run. And though it does not look fast because their improbable size destroys all scale, it is fast enough, and a good thing they’ve chosen to run the other way. Only memory reveals their whiteness.


Polar Bear tracks. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

CURWOOD: Mark Seth Lender is the author of Salt Marsh Dairy, A Year on the Connecticut coast. For the photos he took -- head on over to our website, loe dot org.

 

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