Sunrise on Ice

It is August 2009. Light is fleeting, but it reflects colors beautifully from across the sky to the snow. Though this light begins to touch the sky again on Antarctica's coastline, the sun has not yet risen – nor has it popped above the horizon in nearly four months.

August is the coldest month in Antarctica. Nose hairs freeze and skin cracks due to the lack of humidity – though exposed skin is hard to find.

Snapping photos of the pressure ridges and a friend dressed in a "Big Red" Canada Goose Down jacket at the dawn of spring. Location: On the Ross Sea Ice Shelf, Scott Base, Antarctica.

Privileged to accompany professional photographer and director of Antarctica: A Year on Ice, Anthony Powell, out on the sea ice, these photos were captured as light reflected off white pressure ridges in the Ross Sea near Scott Base. Fellow winterover, Joe Roberts, stood contemplating his own photo op through a delicately formed hole in a slab of ice that pushed up through the sea ice's tempermental frozen coastal crust. These formations are both delicate and powerful – inviting in their intricate formations and folds and dangerous in their fragility.

Layers of seasonal sea ice are pushed up into the air as winter ice expands within it's confines of the Ross Sea. Location: On the Ross Sea Ice Shelf, Scott Base, Antarctica.

In this area, weddell seals will pop up during the summer while a new batch of contractors and scientists will sign up for special tours to negotiate the ice formations. By late January, the structural integrity of these formation will diminish between the fissures and ridges in the ice to the volcanic shoreline of Ross Island nearby – rendering the frosty waves and valleys into a slushy and unpredictable mess as the temperatures rise above freezing.

But, this is winter. The returning light is fascinating. The air is bitter cold. And the pressure ridges are quiet – so very quiet that the squeaky crunching sound of boots on the snow, the gentle whisper of my own breath, and the click of a camera's shutter are all that permeate the clean dry air. Each boot leaves a mark on a place that has not, and likely will not, be stepped upon again.

Amidst fractured and bending ice formations, the sun tries harder each day to make an appearance past Castle Rock and the active volcano, Mount Erebus on the horizon. Location: On the Ross Sea Ice Shelf, Scott Base, Antarctica.

The opportunity is fleeting and most probably never repeatable. A moment of solitary contemplation in the midst of pristine, natural, and temporary snow sculptures at the bottom of the world left me in a tremendous state of awe – an inspiring time of personal clarity and gratitude for the experience.

The light – from last sunset to the return of dawn in Antarctica brought a short verse to mind from my Sunday school classes and words that were powerfully put to music by Handel in his Messiah:

"Arise shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn."

Isaiah 60:1-3


Unless noted, all images and content © 2014 - 2018 The Earth Ink | Andrea Rip

*Orginally posted by the same author on 26 June 2014 at thearthink.blogspot.com.

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