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Daily Journals

September 5, 2006

Yesterday, our last day on the ice, ended in spectacular fashion. Not only were we privileged to witness the beginning of Tara's two-year mission, but, at long last, the sun returned with brilliant, low-angle light — what we call photographer's light. Some call this type of sunlight "the glow" and that is a fitting description for what this light does to the objects it touches.

iciclesThe ice blocks and ridge line that just hours earlier had been painted in muted shades of white, gray and blue were transformed to golden yellow, brilliant white and tropical-bay blue — all set against a backdrop of dark sky. It was as if the heavens had opened up and poured a golden light over the landscape.

A closer inspection of the ridge line, revealed the beauty that surrounded me. The colors and clarity were stunning, from the great expanse of brilliant white to the minute details of icicles on a block of blue ice. These images were what I had imagined the Arctic would look like, not the almost constant gray I have experienced during much of the cruise. The setting Arctic sun illuminated the texture of the ice and snow, caused icicles to sparkle and turned the clouds orange-pink.

Icicles on block of iceAn overnight snow had softened the edges of the ridge line and lightly covered the “ground.” Our footsteps crunched in the snow as we explored the area. In places where the snow cover had been cleared by the wind, the ice’s surface was amazingly flat, smooth and slippery. More than one person was unprepared for the slippery surface and fell, while others tested their balance and sliding skills across the larger patches.

At one point, one of the Tara’s Siberian Huskies came rushing out to us, obviously happy to be off the ship and in the snow. It climbed up on a high point along the ridge line and stood, looking out toward the setting sun. A more dramatic Arctic moment would be hard to create. All too soon it was time to board the icebreaker and head for our next station.

After departing Tara, we had another experience involving brilliant Arctic light. Art stuck his head in my door at 01:30 and said the light on the sea ice was gorgeous. I glanced out my window and the view took my breath away. Several of us went out on the deck, the same diehard crowd that usually shows up when viewing conditions are right. The icebreaker was surrounded once more by crisp shadows and sparkling white snow. Cracks in the sea ice stretched in front of the bow like giant puzzle pieces and every detail of the ice —bumps, ridges, wind-blown snow patterns — jumped out at us. Once again, we all thought the same thing: we will never tire of this endless ice dance.

John Kermond with the NOAA Climate Program Office expressed our feelings in a way that many people can understand, "It's like watching a fire, the glowing embers constantly changing, and no view is ever the same." So it is with the ice — ever changing, ever beautiful.

—Mike Dunn

 

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Kapitan Dranitsyn