Experiences

Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Spread the News:Share“On a bad day we called it the Goddamn Ice Cube. On a good day Summer Camp on the Moon.”   In her memoir published July 5, writer and musher Blair Braverman recounts her time living in the isolated wilderness of the Arctic, and her struggles to reconcile the many contradictions—both real and perceived—that accompanied her journey. Over the course of its 274 pages, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North provides an honest and eloquent narrative of Braverman’s personal pursuit to create a home in the fjords of Norway and glaciers of Southeastern Alaska. While Braverman’s experiences in the north were not always positive, she persistently returns to the Arctic to overcome her fears and self-doubts–seeking safety in extreme environments and confronting her status as an outsider in a “man’s world.” Her Arctic roots trace back to a young age. Braverman spent a year in Oslo when she was 10-years-old and continuously returned, feeling connected to the country in a way that she never felt in her hometown of Davis, California. A year as a high school foreign exchange student in Norway helped her reestablish her connection. But a host father who made her feel unsafe also made her time there difficult. Braverman was insecure, but not defeated. As testament to her personal strength and character, she pushed herself to return to Norway and struggle through the extreme physical and mental challenges of survival training and dog sledding in the Arctic at the Norwegian Folk School 69°North. “I knew I would never be a tough girl,” she writes in the memoir. “And yet the phrase, with its implied contradiction, articulated everything that I wanted for myself: to be a girl, an inherently vulnerable position, and yet unafraid.” In the far reaches of the North, there were many things to fear—the biting cold, the seemingly unending darkness of winter, being buried alive under the snow. However, Braverman approached these physical challenges head-on throughout her time at 69°North and in the years to follow. “Of course I was scared. But at least I was scared of dangers of my own choosing. At least there was joy that came with it.” There were other equally pressing physical and emotional dangers that Braverman faced, one of which is not exclusive to the Arctic: the danger of men threatening her safety and encroaching on her body. In the eyes of the men Braverman encountered, the Arctic was seen as exclusively male territory. Despite the intimidation, harassment, and dismissal by men, Braverman was determined to have an equal right to also call the Arctic “home.” After completing her survival training at the folk school, Braverman left Norway to work at a summer tour company on a glacier in southeast Alaska. Living on a remote glacier with an aggressive boyfriend, the irony of her job cannot be lost—providing a comfortable experience for tourists to be “explorers” out in the wilderness, when the reality of living in such an environment is anything but comfortable. She writes in the book that she was also “discouraged from acknowledging climate change, even as the glacier melted away beneath us.” While the majority of people may prefer to sweep difficult truths under the rug, Braverman is admirable for her desire to seek it out, regardless of convenience. While Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is, to a large degree, a story of emotional and physical struggle, it is also one of deep admiration for nature and the Arctic. Braverman’s love of the environment is contagious and brought to life through her vivid...

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Ice Cold Beer: Icebergs Take New Form at Brewery

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Ice Cold Beer: Icebergs Take New Form at Brewery

Spread the News:ShareThere are four basic ingredients in beer: grain, hops, yeast and water.  Brewers routinely experiment with barley and wheat to distinguish their products in their competitive, creative field.  In Canada, one brewery uses one especially unexpected product to create a natural, pure taste: icebergs. The St. John’s, Newfoundland-based Quidi Vidi Brewing (QV) is capturing media attention for its beer that is brewed with the water from 25,000-year-old icebergs. This past month a reporter from Vice’s Munchies toured the operations and sampled the “clean, crisp refreshing North-American style lager.” The company, the largest craft brewery in Newfoundland, also held brewing tours in July. David Fong and David Rees, both engineers in the offshore oil industry, founded QV in 1996.  The two men converted an old seafood plant into a full-fledged brewery.  Not long after their start, the same year an iceberg drifted up the harbor that sheltered QV, the brewery brought their Iceberg Beer to market.  In March of 2011, QV changed the Iceberg bottle to the dark blue it is today. After 10,000 to 25,000 years of formation on glaciers in Greenland, the calved icebergs drift southwest on ocean currents and then are harvested off the eastern coast of Canada.  The natural preservation and delivery of the pre-industrial water ensures that it is some of the purest in the world, the brewers have said.   As QV brewer Les Perry told Munchies,“This is what water should taste like. This could be anything up to 25,000 years old…. By the time it [the iceberg] gets to Newfoundland, it’s shrunk in size, so we’re getting closer to the core, made thousands of years ago, long before we had any contaminants.” Ed Kean, one of the few men licensed to harvest seaborne glacial ice, supplies QV with icebergs.  Every summer Kean heads up the coast of eastern Canada to an area known as “Iceberg Alley.”  There, according to an interview between Kean and Canadian news talk show Breakfast Television, he harvests approximately 1.5 million liters of iceberg water to satisfy his buyers. They include QV, a winery and the Newfoundlander distillery Iceberg Vodka. In a conversation with GlacierHub, Kean said it takes him and his crew of six roughly four to six weeks to get a full harvest of iceberg water. Kean says demand for iceberg water is growing at roughly 10 percent each year. Obtaining a reliable supply of iceberg water for a commercial product seems no easy task, but Iceberg Vodka’s Brand Marketing Lead, Rachel Starkman, said differently in an email to GlacierHub: “Because there are a limited number of harvesting licenses available and Mother Nature has continued to bless us with fruitful harvests each year, acquiring iceberg water has not posed any difficulties.” Despite legal disputes between the two founders that began in February of 2014, Quidi Vidi continues to produce its flagship Iceberg Beer and maintains a strong local following. QV did not respond to GlacierHub’s request for comment on its Iceberg Beer by time of publication. “QV has been in operation for 20 years and they have fought long and hard to gain their customers…. Right now they are in the middle of some challenges but all of their fans are hoping they clear soon and Quidi Vidi will be free to stretch their legs and start brewing new beers in line with many other craft breweries,” said Newfoundlander and beer critic Mike Buhler. Buhler, aka “Beerthief,” and his wine connoisseur partner, Tom Beckett, founded the NL (Newfoundland) Artisanal and Craft Beer Club in 2012 and then in 2014 began writing a beer blog for the St. John’s daily newspaper, The Telegram....

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Walk through the Glacial History that Shaped New York City

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Walk through the Glacial History that Shaped New York City

Spread the News:ShareNew York City is often referred to as the concrete jungle.  However, a few hundred years ago this artificial forest was an actual forest, and 20,000 years ago Manhattan was covered in hundreds of feet of glacial ice.  The city’s natural history has shaped our modern landscape. Understanding that urban connection to the natural world was the purpose of CALL WALK, a recently held environmental education walking tour in Manhattan, New York. CALL WALK was created in affiliation with City as Living Laboratory (CALL), a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading environmental awareness through artwork and tours that show how modern life has been defined by the natural world. The organization recently released a new video capturing the walking tour. The tour was presented in conjunction with a two day conference hosted by Columbia University, Ice Cubed: An Inquiry into the Aesthetics, History, and Science of Ice.  The conference explored the use of ice as medium to express concerns over global warming artistically as well as academically. CALL’s artistic director, Mary Miss, founded the the non-profit  in 2009 with a mission stated on CALL’s website to, “Increase awareness and action around environmental challenges through the arts.”  Miss’ work with CALL is a continuation of over four decades of projects that she has completed in cities all across the country.  These include 2007’s Connect the Dots in Boulder, Colorado, where she created a citywide map of the changing waterways. Recently, Miss and her staff of four have designed several art installations and WALKS that call public attention to the link between natural and man-made systems.  CALL WALK was an extension of a current project, BROADWAY: 1000 Steps (B/CALL) Anthropologist Ben Orlove, also founder and editor of GlacierHub, lead the CALL WALK along with and poet and artist  Marshall Reese.  The artist is known for his work with ice sculptures with which he uses melting ice that has been fashioned into keywords as social commentary. He and his collaborator Nora Ligorano will bring large ice sculptures of the words “The American Dream” to the Republican and Democratic conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia later this month, where they will melt and disappear. Along the way, the two guides and their geology expert, Mike Kaplan of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, commented on remnants of the mighty glacier that covered Manhattan during the last ice age. “He [Kaplan] pointed out some glacier erratics in Riverside Park, pieces of rock from the Palisades, the cliffs on the other side of the Hudson. He showed that they could have been transported by the ice sheets back in the last Ice Age,” Orlove said in an interview following the mid-April CALL WALK. “I was surprised because I have visited the park many times, but I had never stopped to look closely at those boulders and to wonder where they came from.” Connecting the present to the undiscovered past in our backyards is what makes events such as CALL WALK and B/CALL intriguing and important. “Through exploration of the Broadway corridor, viewers will become aware that nature is everywhere and in action at all times, that the city is an urban ecosystem, that innumerable numbers of small decisions over time have shaped the environment we inhabit today and that our decisions today (behavioral choices) will impact the future of all of nature,” said CALL manager Christine Sandoval. Participants followed a bygone creek that now manifests as a puddle that forms in the subway, or as a patch of moss in Riverside Park.  They were also led to touch smoothed bedrock and massive boulders transported by ancient glaciers that melted and produced...

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Photo Friday: Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images, Interviews | 1 comment

Photo Friday: Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier

Spread the News:ShareIt started with a road trip. A “bucket-list trip,” according to Tish  Millard, a photographer from Prince Rupert, Canada. Millard and her husband decided to drive the over 4,660 miles there-and-back, along the the Alaskan and Dalton highways to “dance in the Midnight Sun,” as she puts it. They passed through Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez, Wasilla, and crossing into the Arctic Circle, before arriving at Matanuska. Speaking to GlacierHub, Millard said that her passion for glaciers came from her time in the unique town of Stewart-Hyder, and visits to the nearby Salmon Glacier. Remarkably, is the only land border crossing where a person may legally enter the United States without reporting for inspection, as the settlement spans the American-Canadian border. Matanuska is 27 miles long, and over 4 miles wide – making it the largest glacier in America that can be reached by vehicle. Remarking on her first reactions upon arriving at the terminus of Matanuska, Millard said she was “transfixed by the glacier’s beauty.” But it was the creaks, cracks, rumblings, and groans coming from the glacier which made their greatest impression – “The noises it made were mystical.” To top off the “unforgettable experience,” Matanuska was the first glacier Millard had ever walked on – she described it as “surreal.” The surface of the glacier is a beautiful pale blue, mantled by snow and streaks of black soot – detritus blown across the state from wildfires. It is heavily crevassed, which can make certain traverses challenging and dangerous. Deeper into the glacier, climbers from Anchorage regularly clamber up hundreds of feet of jagged pinnacles of ice. Three-and-a-half trillion tons of water have melted from Alaska’s glaciers since the 1950s, according the USGS. And they are unlikely to recover this year, as Spring temperatures averaged a sweltering 89.6°F – warmer than Washington D.C. Jake Weltzin, a phenologist with the USGS, commented that this year has “turned the state into a melting pot, almost literally.” Historically, the Matanuska has been little affected by rising temperatures over the past 30 years, and consistently advances approximately one foot each day. However, with consistent record-breaking temperatures, early onset of the melt season, and lowering surface albedo thanks to the deposited wildfire debris, the this may be the year that significant retreat begins. Spread the...

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Roundup: On Glaciers This Week: Raves, Yoga and Kayaks

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Sports, Tourism | 0 comments

Roundup: On Glaciers This Week: Raves, Yoga and Kayaks

Spread the News:ShareIcelanders Celebrate Solstice with Glacier Rave From The Daily Beast: “Sure enough, there he was: a man dressed in a head-to-toe panda costume running toward the bus and waving his hands, a sweaty tornado of furry stress, desperate not to miss the bus that would transport him to the Langjökull Glacier—and the 500-meter tunnel that will take him to the party held 25 meters beneath the icy surface. “This is the second year that the Secret Solstice festival has held the special event. Whispers of last year’s party—not to mention the insane photos—helped land not just the excursion, but Iceland’s four-day music marathon itself, on the top of the must-attend list in the world’s festival circuit.” Read more here. Indian Army practices Yoga on Siachen Glacier From Business Standard: “The second International Day of Yoga was celebrated by Army’s Fire and Fury Corps today at the Siachen Glacier, along with several other high-altitude forward locations in Leh and Kargil. “The Indian Army has incorporated Yoga Asanas into the daily routine of the soldier in High Altitude Areas deployed in harsh climatic conditions. “Practice of Yoga by soldiers in such an environment helps them to combat various diseases such as high altitude sickness, hypoxia, pulmonary oedema and the psychological stresses of isolation and fatigue.” Read more about it here.   Film-maker kayaks in Vatnajökull Glacier’s lake From Vine.co: Watch film-maker Henry Jun Wah Lee explore the Vatnajökull Glacier, and its proglacial lake by kayak. More stunning footage here. Spread the...

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Assembling Stories of the 2010 Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 in Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Assembling Stories of the 2010 Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Spread the News:ShareLike many other people, I was affected by the eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull six years ago.  I have begun a project which focuses on the mountain, a glacier-covered volcano in southern Iceland, and its dramatic eruption.  I am writing to invite you and others to contribute stories about this event to the project, which is titled Volcanologues.   The eruption began on 20 March 2010. The interaction of magma with water during the second phase of the eruption, beginning on 14 April, created a plume of volcanic ash that covered large areas of northern Europe, blocking air traffic over most of Europe for six days. About twenty countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic. Approximately ten million people had their travel schedules interrupted without any warning, and had to scramble to adjust their plans.   Eyjafjallajökull and the glacier which covers it have always had a significant presence for me. Not only did some of my ancestors live on a small farm right under the glacier, but also I could see the mountain from Heimaey, the island I was born and raised, as well as more recently from my summer home in southern Iceland. In Reykjavik, I followed news on the levels of toxic gases which were emitted, and I measured the amount of ash that fell by my house. I also had to cancel a trip for a major conference in Poland. Most importantly, later on I was stranded in Norway due to one of the last clouds of volcanic ash. The trip home, which ordinarily would require  only three hours, lasted 26 hours–a strange experience, one that remained in my mind longer than I anticipated. During the months following the eruption, I kept meeting many people who described similar experiences, often in far more dramatic terms than I had used in speaking to my family and friends. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to collect eruption stories. I hesitated, perhaps because I somehow felt guilty that a volcano in my backyard was causing all these troubles! Recently, however, such a project has appealed to me, partly because I have been organizing a research project, “Domesticating Volcanoes” at the Center for Advanced Study in Oslo and partly because I have been developing the notion of “geosociality,” along with anthropologist Heather Anne Swanson, focusing on the commingling of humans and the earth “itself.” Hosted at the University of Iceland, the Volcanologues project will document the complex impacts of the eruption on people from different parts of the world. Anyone who has a story to tell is inviteded to share their experience. Collectively, these stories will illuminate personal dramas in the wake of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, providing an engaging window into unprecedented natural events and their aftermaths. I ask those who are interested in contributing to submit a short essay, possibly along with a related image (a photo, a drawing, or a document), to volcanologues2010@gmail.com. The average text should be between 500 and 1000 words. It should include a title, name and email address of the author, and a statement of consent: “I hereby grant Gisli Palsson permission to publish my essay on his Volcanologues website and in a printed collection of essays.” I would like to thank my friend Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson for the permission to use his striking photographs of the eruption. His work can be viewed at Arctic Images. Spread the...

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