South Dakota Discovery Center Special Projects Director and 2017 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Anne Lewis has recently returned from an expedition to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland.
Read the first in her series of blog posts about the journey.
How do I start? How do I tell this story?
I suppose I should start with the facts; where I went, what I saw, what I did. I put that information for most of the expedition in an annotated map.
The map only covers Svalbard, our travel towards Greenland and one stop in Iceland. The other stops in Iceland will be added at a later date. I hope. Iceland ended up feeling like its own expedition. I had intended to do field work throughout but once I got muck boots on the ground I decided to limit the field work to above the Arctic circle where there was ice.
I say this as if I had some agency in the matter and I suppose at some level I did. But my decision to limit my field work was based completely and solely on my fascination with ice. Once we were out of it, I felt my field work was done.
I did not expect to fall in love with the ice. The ice was beautiful and compelling. I’m still trying to find the words to describe it. I struggle to even explain how profound it was for me. Imagine, if you will, you have never seen a sunset. Then, one day you see not just a sunset but a full color, sky aflame sunset. Your life is changed because you have experienced this beauty that makes you stop breathing for a moment. Your world is different to know such a thing exists.
I feel the same way about glacial ice. My world is different.
This glacial ice is not the ice you curse as you scrape it off your windshield in January. This ice has a turquoise luminescence. It’s ancient and beautiful and strong and vulnerable.
I say vulnerable because I saw a glacier calve. Rationally, I know that all glaciers calve, it’s a natural process. There is no way to tell if that particular episode of calving was in anyway caused by climate change. But that calving was representative of all calving. It was beautiful and sad.
The day I saw the glacier calve was brilliant with sun, the crisp white terminus of the glacier, and deep blue sky. I watched from the bow of the ship the ice drop into the sea, its transition from glacier to iceberg. I could not see a splash; there must have been ripples. The freshly calved terminus glowed blue under the white.
We were far enough away that the ice made no sound when it fell. A few moments later, I heard its rumble above the crackling of the ice near the ship, made by icebergs releasing the gases trapped inside for hundreds and thousands of years.
It is said time does not have a sound. But I think it does. It is the sound of the ice.