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Walking on thin ice

June 1, 2011 1 comment

theage

Icebergs break away as the melting Antarctica landscape yields to glabal warming.Antarctica

Icebergs break away as the melting Antarctica landscape yields to glabal warming. Photo: Angela Wylie

Every now and then the magnificent, mute marble coast of Antarctica will suddenly find a voice and let out a shattering exclamation – like a gunshot. The noise travels far and wide, thundering uninterrupted across crystal space until sheer distance exhausts it.

It is the sound of an ice cliff collapsing into the ocean. Or maybe of a new iceberg cleaving itself away from the continent and setting sail. It is part of the natural soundtrack of planet history, though it is only rarely, and recently – in geological timescales – heard by humans.

In little remote scientific communities like the Australian Antarctic Division’s Casey Station, on the East Antarctic coast, a roar from the ice might briefly interrupt the labour or conversation of the scientists and tradesfolk who are resident there, working on some aspect of deciphering the climate story. For those lucky enough to be among them, to hear it, it sends a shiver of humility through your bones. You are, after all, at the mercy of this grumbling giant. The cryosphere Read more…