This footage, (seen at minute 3.2) from a location near the North Pole has been seen by only 45,000 people on YouTube. It’s already 4 years old. It’s as dramatic as one might find, showing rivers of water pouring out of ice shelves in Svalbard, the northernmost inhabited place in the world. Svalbard is an archipelago located between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
Now moving to the South Pole… Tierra del Fuego is hauntingly beautiful and it’s true that the glacial ice looks blue. The color results from the ice being compacted for so long. As pressure mounts, air bubbles are squeezed out and the crystals expand.
After visiting Argentina’s southernmost town of Ushuaia, some people venture to various expeditions, such as we did, to the 18,000 year old Perito Mereno glacier. From boat excursions, that track fairly closely to the various glaciers, you can witness calving. This occurs when the glacier cracks break and masses of ice fall off, in this case, into the Straits of Magellan, with a thundering sound. (In Chilean territory, the Straits are the most important natural link between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.) Tourists get excited, and our guide served “Scotch on the rocks” but the obvious implications are deadly sobering.
One hears about “Global Warming” less these days in today’s mind-boggling American national narrative which has descended into ruminating on the mundanely profane incidents du-jour whether gun or Trump or harassment-related. While we live in banality, sadly Global Warming continues apace. Comparing March to March from 1978-2018, approximately 16,000 square miles of ice or 2.7% has melted each decade.
Earlier this year, a New Yorker magazine article featured the journey of British explorer Henry Worsley who followed in his hero Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps to explore the Antarctica. On Worsley’s first team expedition, the three succeeded in reaching the South Pole, marking a culmination of his devotion to achieving the mission that Shackleton had nearly completed but chose to abandon to protect his crew.
The gripping story is full of fascinating details of determination and survival. On his second–and solo trip in which he planned to cross Antarctica–Worsley trekked over 1,000 miles from the Ronne Ice Shelf, through the South Pole, toward his intended destination–the Ross Ice Shelf. This time, he again reached the South Pole, but continued, by himself, pulling all his supplies–over 300 pounds at the outset– behind him on a sled. He was so committed to his pledge to attain the goal solely on his own capacity that he refused the welcome opportunity to eat and stay indoors at the research center, pressing on toward his goal.
It’s a remarkable story. Both mighty explorers came close but neither reached their ultimate target. Worsley finally pushed the rescue button a mere 30 miles from his destination–the Ross Ice Shelf. He had a tea on the plane, reported to his wife that he was feeling fine but then died within hours, at a Chilean hospital, of multiple organ failure. His mind and “Seals-Type” military training had armed him to pursue a feat–solo–so far unmatched, and one which ultimately exceeded the formidable performance limits of his body.
Here’s a list of the dozens of North Pole research stations.
Image courtesy: Canoe and Kayak magazine.