Sun scalloping (photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Icebergs are monumental and awe-inspiring and also potentially dangerous. Writer mark Seth Lender came close to the mighty mountains of ice and found them also beautiful and guarding hidden secrets.
CURWOOD: When glaciers reach the sea, they release icebergs and for many they're both fascinating and dangerous. Writer Mark Seth Lender encountered his first icebergs off Greenland aboard ship with Adventure Canada. He was impressed by their unexpected beauty and scale, and that something special deep inside that few people have ever seen – or rather, heard.
LENDER: In the channeled quiet of dawn, at the first thin edge of Antemeridian, at latitudes dark this time of year, not far from the place they were born, under sky so clear, on a sea like mercury: Icebergs!
Eons of snow crushed by its own weight is their point of conception, in embryo a slow-flowing river of ice: white from above, blue within, hard as the ancient granite shield wearing away beneath. Towards the sea the ice river goes, drawn by an irresistible force. There, at a shore of her own making, Ilulissat Glacier lies down to give them birth, sons and daughters made of ice. Within the narrows of the fjord they abide, then stroll at a casual pace out into Disko Bay. Wind and current carries Ilulissat’s children on, and on; too distant now to hear the water breaking, the crashing, the waves thrashing in the moment they came into the world. Having drifted away, they will never be back.
By glacier, whole ranges of mountains return to sand and dust. Peaks are worn down into valleys. The valleys scoured by a torrent roaring beneath the ice. The watercourses and the bays are drowned in silt; the land is transformed, unrecognizable. Just so, by sunlight, by salt, mountains of ice waste away. Icebergs too large to measure at human scale are carved and scalloped in the brilliance of the arctic sun and on the waterline weathered by currents and by tides. Edges undercut, the balance of above and below becomes untenable. With no warning, icebergs pitch-pole like great ships in a following sea, or, like ocean liners roll, over on their sides.
Tumbling like foundering galleons their final treasure is then revealed. Sequestered within the tiny crystalline flakes of snow there was air, trapped as snow became ice. Now in a sudden underwater rush (like the gush of champagne into the narrow glass) ancient atmosphere blind to all things for ten thousand years sings suddenly escaping. It is the last long gasp of an iceberg returning its breath to the world, a shimmering, bubbling froth, breaking…
Along with the breath the remnant of the body and the blood also depart. Ringlets and driplets chime the surface, thermoclines in sinewy patterns spread underneath; the music and the form of Icebergs vanishing.
Ocean was the source and to the source they have returned.
CURWOOD: To check out some photographs Mark Seth Lender took of icebergs from just a few meters away, drift on over to our website, LOE.org.
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth