Thursday, February 8, 2007

Antarctica Journal day26 - February 8, 2007

iceberg imageOn a sunny calm day - deck weather - each iceberg you pass is a delicious surprise. We are sliding slowly up the coast circling among these mountains of ice. It is startling when you realize they are not connected to the shore they hug. They are dancing on the wind and in the current, softly swaying except when an explosive crash echoes the birth of a new one.

To port the delicate curve of a castle tower provides the palest blue background for a foot wide, hundred-foot long cobalt streak. The streak was once a crevasse in a glacier that filled with clear water and froze. Sandwiched between air filled snow and compressed by the ferocious movement of ice, it became the vivid decoration for the castle only when the glacier calved.

Somehow Jerome makes each day better. We are sailing into a glacial graveyard where near melted bergy bits, pockmarked and green, float interspersed with impossible slender spires newly shattered. Immense tabular bergs, dotted with penguins, slowly spin in their translucent skirts of turquoise. A symphony of shadows and shapes: chiseled arches, wind and wave cut vertical slabs, erode into even more fantastic designs.

An azure color found nowhere else in nature suggests the size of the ice structure submerged. Generally about four-fifths of the berg is hidden. But the salt water chews at the bottom and when a piece breaks off, the delicate balance changes, and the berg sways, heaves and overturns, seeking a new bargain with gravity. Icebergs the size of small cities can flip with deadly speed and beauty.

Reinvented after each storm, this slow, exquisite destruction is best displayed in the sun, backlit, pulsing blue from the inside. In Alaska we call it Christ Ice. Hallelujah.

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