Archive | December, 2007

Home on ice

18 Dec


So, winter is here. The arctic ice is nearly back fully frozen after its record summer thaw. But I was thinking today about what more, and earlier, ice melt might mean in the immediate areas around glacier mouths. I’ve always been amazed by iceberg and their frozen river origins and a warming world means that ice break off will be more dramatic than ever before. The size of icebergs is likely to increase. Huge, bobbing offspring of a vanishing, diseased parent.


More icebergs, crashing off ice sheets and piling up against one another in the fjords and oceans of the north. Initially a mix of individual blocks, fused together as they form pack ice. Then breaking up and spreading out. Growing up and leaving home.

In themselves I imagine then as these modular habitable units where, in a parallel universe, people might live inside hollowed out bergs, initially fused together with their neighbours, a strong community where everyone is forced together. Then as the year progresses the break up of the ice occurs and people spread apart, are forced to separate and become independent. It would be like our lives on a hugely exaggerated scale, completely at the hands off the seasons.

But i’m still struck by the image of these habitable units. You’d be completely powerless as to where they take you. Reliant on ocean currents, storm systems and the tides. You’d be blind essentially. Trapped in a glassy mirrored interior. As the summer went on the walls would thin, the outside would become more visible. Eventually the berg would entirely melt. And then what?

The old maps of the Arctic chart out the northern landmasses like icebergs themselves. You can imagine the giant bergs which occasionally break off Antarctica and Greenland would be continental in their scope. Floating country sized slabs of ice. People would chisel their own homes out of the ice. Communities would form, societies would develop, there would be a whole civil system…just for a few months. Each individual mountain of ice would be weathered individually, shaped by its journey. A complete expression of the landscape and seascapes it encounters. Some stained grey by a journey along the petrochemical works around Arkangel, others clear, blue and shining as they glide past Svalbard. Battle wounds would show where collisions would have taken place. Waring iceberg inhabitants even resorting to conflict – invading passing floating communities. Other bergs would seek alliances.

But the sun would keep rising and the winds would shift and 2000 miles from where you started out that society would be shattered, broken up – floes the last melting remains, eventually recycled when the next freeze arrives.