Layer upon layer of snow, built up over thousands of years, ice cores are an archive of Earth’s past. Taken from ice sheets and glaciers, these cores are used for scientific discovery of the climate changes that Earth may have gone through.
This is the focus of Peggy Weil’s “88 cores,” a four-and-a-half hour video descent two miles through the Greenland Ice Sheet in one continuous pan that goes back more than 110,000 years. It aims to explore the intersections of polar ice, time and humanity. “88 cores” is being shown for the first time as the second part of The Climate Museum’s “In Human Time” exhibition from January 19 to February 11.
“The film is not a scientific document, but it is informed by science. Although much of the data gleaned from ice cores is invisible (analysis of gasses, ECM data) the ice itself is visually compelling. The work acknowledges the immensity and grandeur of the ice (and the human effort to understand it) as we contemplate its fragility,” states Weil.
Along with the video, still images of the ice cores will also be on display and accompanied by other artifacts and media that offers context on ice core science and the Arctic.
The exhibition is being presented in partnership with the Parsons School of Design’s Sheila Johnson Design Center at The Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries in New York on Fifth Avenue.
As melting polar icecaps and receding glaciers have generated a global consciousness of the planet’s fragility, ice is now more than ever a subject of fascination and analysis, whether historically or in the contemporary world. On April 15-16, the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University will host Ice Cubed–a two-day conference exploring the wide range of possibilities and contradictions of ice in contemporary analysis and artistic expression.
With support from two Columbia organizations–the Center for Science and Society and the Heyman Center for the Humanities—Ice-Cubed will bring together artists, academics, scholars, and scientists to explore the generative possibilities of ice as a medium for bridging disciplines within and beyond the academy in an era of global warming.
The conference will begin on the morning of Friday April 15 with a full schedule of interdisciplinary academic panels organized around themes from making and melting ice to material structures. Presentations by humanists and scientists from Columbia and beyond–including Robin Bell of the Lamont Earth Institute, Hasok Chang of Cambridge University, and SIPA’s Ben Orlove–will be followed by a screening and discussion of Isaac Julien’s 2004 video installation, True North.
On Friday evening at 6, Ice Cubed is pleased to welcome the public to a Keynote Conversation between Pulitzer prize-winning composer John Luther Adams and writer Barry Lopez, author of the National Book Award-winning Arctic Dreams. As artists with long experience living and working in the Arctic, Adams and Lopez will discuss the ways in which the stark, ice-bound landscapes of the Far North become incorporated into their work, and what happens when the boundary between artist and activist blurs under the pressure of contemporary climate change. This special event will include a reading of Lopez’s “The Trail: A Short Short Story,” and a performance of Adams’s “…and bells remembered…” by Sandbox Percussion.
Saturday’s schedule offers a continuation of the scholarly discussion around ice, capped off by a Art + Science WALK, co-organized with City as Living Lab, in which GlacierHub’s managing editor Ben Orlove and public artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese will lead conference participants and the public through the Morningside Heights neighborhood. Since 2013, landscape artist Mary Miss and City as Living Lab have been organizing artist-scientist led WALKs with the goal of bring artists, scientists, and the broader community into conversation around contemporary social and environmental issues. Ice Cubed is thrilled to have partnered with City as Living Lab, and to be able to offer the WALK as part of the conference program. For those who attend Friday and Saturday morning events, footage of Ligorano’s and Reese’s work–including “Dawn of the Anthropocene,” a melting ice sculpture that coincided with the 2014 UN Climate Change Summit and the People’s Climate March–will be on view at the conference.
The organizers of Ice Cubed, Maggie Cao and Rebecca Woods, are both postdoctoral fellows at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University. The idea for the conference originated in the Fall of 2015 when Cao, who holds an appointment as Assistant Professor of Art History at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Woods, who will begin a tenure-track position in the History of Technology at the University of Toronto in July of 2016, discovered their mutual interest in things icy and cold. Cao works on nineteenth-century American landscape painting, with a particular interest in objects and art produced in polar settings, and Woods studies the history of cold (natural and artificial) in the British Empire. From conversation around this shared interest, and taking inspiration from recent discourse around the cryosphere, came the idea to host a discussion across disciplines within the academy, and beyond.
All Ice Cubed events will take place on the Columbia Morningside Campus, and are free and open to the public. No advanced registration is necessary, although those who wish to attend the WALK can email Rebecca Woodsin advance in order to meet up with the group as it sets out from the Columbia Campus at 11:45 on April 15. This will be a great opportunity for the public to meet and mingle with conference speakers and participants.
On November 9th, New Horizons mission geologists presented evidence that Pluto’s largest and most distinctive mountains might indeed be cryovolcanoes, or ice volcanoes, that are likely to have been active in Pluto’s recent geological past.
The findings are just one of over fifty new reports of exciting discoveries about Pluto, revealed just four months after the New Horizons spacecraft first encountered the dwarf planet. Geologists and astronomers presented this new research at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in National Harbor, Maryland, which began on November 9th.
New Horizons geologists presented 3-D elevation maps of Pluto’s surface, specifically of two of Pluto’s largest mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons.
“These are big mountains with a large hole in their summit, and on Earth that generally means one thing—a volcano,” said Oliver White, New Horizons postdoctoral researcher with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, in a New Horizons blog post.
The elevation maps suggest that these two distinctive mountains, which measure tens of miles across and several miles high, could be ice volcanoes. The research team is still tentative in its conclusions, but their current hypothesis strongly explains the geological formation of the two mountains.
White says, “If they are volcanic, then the summit depression would likely have formed via collapse as material is erupted from underneath. The strange hummocky texture of the mountain flanks may represent volcanic flows of some sort that have travelled down from the summit region and onto the plains beyond.”
The scientists don’t yet have all the explanations of their hypothesis, though. White muses, “Why they are hummocky, and what they are made of, we don’t yet know.”
However, while Earthly volcanoes spew fiery molten rock, these cryovolcanoes are a little different: NASA scientists suspect that they would emit “a somewhat melted slurry of substances such as water ice, nitrogen, ammonia, or methane.”
If Pluto’s distinctive mountains are indeed volcanoes, the findings will provide important insight into geologic and atmospheric evolution in space.
The scientific findings regarding Pluto’s geology and atmospheric systems that have emerged over the last four months have consistently continued to surprise NASA’s New Horizons mission team.
Jim Green, the director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, commented about the mission, “The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down.”
Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, called Pluto the new “star of the solar system,” adding, “It’s hard to imagine how rapidly our view of Pluto and its moons are evolving as new data stream in each week.”
Even further, the sheer magnitude of data available for analysis have stunned scientists. Stern stated, “I’d wager that for most planetary scientists, any one or two of our latest major findings on one world would be considered astounding. To have them all is simply incredible.”
“It’s why we explore – to satisfy our innate curiosity and answer deeper questions about how we got here and what lies beyond the next horizon,” said Jim Green.
“Thinning Ice”, an installation commissioned by Swarovski for its ninth year at Design Miami (December 3 – 7, 2014), links melting glaciers and climate change through a three-dimensional experience. Architect Jeanne Gang collaborated with James Balog, a National Geographic filmmaker/photographer, to create the installation, which includes a kind of glacier sculpture and a series of photographs, as well as video.
The installation was inspired by Balog’s photographs of the shrinking Stubai Glacier in the Austrian Alps, where Swarovski is headquartered, over a three-year period. The Stubai photographs are part of Balog’s ongoing “Extreme Ice Survey,” an innovative, long-term photography project founded in 2007. The project consists of 28 cameras at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalayas, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains of the United States, which have been recording the rapidly depleting glaciers every thirty minutes over the past several years.
In an effort to bring Balog’s photographs to life, Gang displayed a fluid-formed luminous block, which represents a melting glacier, in the center of the room. This structure, which resembles a kind of table, is pocked with asymmetric holes embedded with a diverse selection of Swarovski crystals, from unprocessed fragments and shards to finely finished pieces. The holes are meant to resemble cryoconite holes, tiny perforations found on glaciers that are created by wind-blown dust made of rock particles, soot and microbes.
The installation’s floor is set with curving illuminated cracks, also filled with small bits of Swarovski crystal, which resemble the crevasses one might find in a receding glacier. Gang finished the installation room with an 11.5-foot tall and a 70-foot long media wall, which presented a running slideshow of epic photographs and video footage of the world’s glaciers.
“‘Thinning Ice’ is a work which captures the haunting beauty of the Earth’s threatened glaciers in a powerful, almost elegiac way,” said Nadja Swarovski, a member of the Swarovski Executive Board, in a statement. The immersive nature of the work is meant to inspire visitors to contemplate the implications of and solutions to the melting of the world’s glaciers.
Swarovski chose to showcase glaciers in Florida to highlight its commitment to sustainability. For 14 years, the company has funded its Swarovski Waterschool Program, which educates children around the world in the principles of sustainable water management. Swarovski also sources materials from suppliers that comply with the United Nations Global Compact’s human rights and environmental standards.
GlacierHub has posted other stories recently about artists from the United States, Italy, and Peru whose work centers on glaciers.
Protected for centuries from pollutants in the air and sea, water from glaciers has sprung up in a new market: liquor.
“It’s the notion that it’s kind of untouched by human hands,” Beverage World editor in chief Jeff Cioletti told OutsideMagazine in 2013, “you can’t get water purer than that.”
Water with fewer impurities is a key element in high-quality liquor. Though using glacial water small part of the market, several companies are using water trapped in glaciers for thousands of years to make vodka and other liquors, including Finlandia, Estonia’s Ston vodka, and Alaska Distillery.
Since glacier harvesting is not done substantially, there is little regulation of it. Alaska is the only U.S. state that requires permits in order to use the water. Scott Lindquist, the head distiller of Alaska Distillery, is the sole holder of such a permit. His company is using meltwater from icebergs broken off of the Harding Ice Field in Prince William Sound to make vodka. Yet, Lindquist is not alone, people from Newfoundland and Labrador, where permits are also required from the provincial government, have been harvesting icebergs for centuries. Ed Kean, a fifth-generation sea captain, seeks Canadian icebergs every year for a local vodka maker, a brewer, a winery and a bottled-water outfit in Newfoundland. Icebergs calved off the ice-shelf of Greenland arrive in Newfoundland and Labrador during spring and early summer and they can be harvested until late September.
Iceberg harvesting is not an easy job and choosing the right bergs is a skill. Years of experience is required to determine where and which iceberg to harvest as well as how to remove the ice without rolling the iceberg. People like Lindquist and Kean are particular about the glacial loot they gather. They prefer clean, round pieces not exposed to the sun too long to avoid evaporation of the “oldest and tastiest inner crystals”. Once they’ve found the suitable ice, they would scoop up or break off pieces of ice using tools like hydraulic claw. The difficulty of iceberg harvesting is the reason that Lindquist is the only remaining ice-harvesting permit holder in Alaska, which once stood at 12 issued permits.
Although beverages containing glacial water are attractive, it is also a challenging market. Despite the technical difficulties of iceberg harvesting, this activity may be opposed by tourism industries. Some local tourism officials in Newfoundland think iceberg harvesting is threatening the unspoiled beauty, which is a main tourist attraction each summer in Newfoundland. “Demand for iceberg is booming,” Kean told Wall Street Journal last year. Keeping up with demand for iceberg-infused drinks is another big challenge for these companies.
Each time it was the same; a block of ice fell into the ocean, I thought I had given enough time for the narwhal to react and get out of its way but again, the ice hit it, its eyes turned into little x’s and the narwhal sank to the bottom of the ocean.
I wasn’t getting real narwhals killed, thankfully, but little cartoon versions of them in Glacier Rush, the new free game for iPhone and Android.
The game itself is simple enough; you drag your finger across the screen to guide a cartoon narwhal in between sinking blocks of ice (Ok, so it’s not the most scientifically minded time-waster), trying to eat as many fish as you can before your eventual demise.
The game shares more than a few similarities to the ultra-simple Flappy Bird, a game where your only goal is to fly a bird through as many pipes as you can. In both games, the premise and controls are simple, but life is short and the need to keep playing often overtakes better judgment.
Much like other mobile games like “Temple Run” or “Lane Splitter“, no matter how well you perform or how long your character lives, they will inevitably succumb to the game. After a while you start to feel sorry for the narwhals, especially the ones that only live long enough to eat a handful of fish. Normally, I can get to 18, but never more than 33, my top score.
A round of Glacier Rush never last more than a few seconds, but these addictive single-premise games quickly waste one minute, then five, then 10. My first session with Glacier Rush ended after about 20 minutes when I became determined not to quit until my narwhal ate 25 fish. I went through the usual distinct stages of playing: adjustment, zen state, desperation, fugue state, back to zen, and then, once I had my 25 fish, mastery.
The game’s makers probably didn’t intend any level of interpretation of Glacier Rush beyond an amusing distraction. The falling ice, the cute animal in danger, the North Atlantic setting all seem to point to something a little darker: the inevitability of climate change. No matter how long you play or what path through the icebergs you manage to steer the narwhal, the ice will get you.
Narwals are a “near-threatened” species according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Falling ice is less of a danger to them than being hunted by humans, though that risk greatly increases as the sea ice breaks apart more and more.
That might be reading too much into it, but according to game programmer Jody McAdams, the average narwhal lifespan is 16 seconds. The game probably isn’t an elaborate commentary on the collateral damage caused by global climate change, but after a few too many rounds of playing Glacier Rush, it’s easy to think how one way or another, ice will get us in the end.