The Ice Bridge

Photos from UAB in Antarctica group on Flickr, related to this post
By Maggie
Posted on 04/15/07
Former Palmerite Glenn Grant chronicles in his website (http://www.60south.com/loudwater/loudwater04a.htm ) the very dramatic change in glacier face that at one time had embayed Arthur Harbor, the body of water that laps the rocky shore on which Palmer Station is situated.  Arthur Harbor now has a burgeoning channel to the north, a small portion of which is deemed safe and navigable.   

Not only is there a new waterway to cruise, there is also new real estate in the neighborhood.  What we have known as Norsel Point on this southern end of Anvers Island has recently come of age as an island!  I guess for awhile we will have to call this property Norsel Not-Point.

 

A few weeks ago, Jim, Alan, and I zodiaced over to see this new territory.  It was eerie motoring through the small channel where not too long ago tons of glacier had stood.  Where did all that ice go??   There is still plenty of glacier towering above the starboard zodiac gunwale is this new channel.  But off to port, there is rocky land!

 

As we came around a curve, the channel forked.  The right fork proceeds quite close along the glacier face and is too narrow for safe boating. In a few years though we may be able to zodiac through that and directly over to Loudwater Cove as Glenn Grant’s images suggest.

 

We piloted the zodiac into the left fork of the channel.   Ahead was an ice bridge arching between two sections of this now severed remnant the Anvers Island Marr Glacier.  This bridge, like much of this Palmer area portion of the Marr will soon crumble into a jumble of ice, disappearing in the cold waters of this new island.   Although the land and its surrounding water were always there, we could not see it all these years due to the overlying glacier.  The land’s potential as an island was being hampered by a glacier ceiling (to metaphor my last post).

 

So as you can see in the image, instead of a Golden Arch, we have a Glacial Arch!  For safety reasons, we were not allowed to drive up close enough to see if there was a drive- in window.  It was also pretty shallow and rocky underneath.  We retraced our course back into Arthur Harbor and resumed our journey via the normal ‘shipping lane’ taken to reach the north islands. 

 

Shortly, the zodiac was bowline knotted to a mooring eye drilled into the rocky landing at Norsel Not-Point.  We walked over ground covered with cushy moss beds and patches grassy areas as I described in my “Green” entry.  We were met by a welcoming committee of fur seals galumphing around and barking, not unlike excited dogs seeking friends with which to play.

 

The gray sky overhead was filled with brown skuas – a distant relative of seagulls.  They make similar loud cries – what a cacophony with so many in flight.  Unlike seagulls the skuas will swoop close to your head at high speed.  In mating season and especially when chicks are on the nest skuas are particularly aggressive and will not only strafe but also strike territory invaders.  Fortunately for us trekkers this day, nesting season for the skuas has ended, these birds were maybe just maintaining their strafing skill. But - even in this relatively tame skua encounter, Hitchcock’s scene in The Birds pales in comparison!

 

Within minutes, we reached the ice bridge. Entering the arch and standing beneath the bridge is not allowed for safety reason.  When I sat down on the wet rocks leading to the bridge, I could look through it and see a small bit of Palmer Station.  How bizarre!  Perhaps what is easier for you to see is another ‘tourist’ zodiac in the water on the other side of the arch. (Image on my last entry.) That is where Jim, Alan and I had been just a few minutes ago.

 

Looking up at the underside of the arch, a drive in window – is indeed visible.  Well ok, so maybe it is more like a skylight than a window. Either way, it is the broken ice ceiling I wrote of last week. 

 

The undersurface of the arch is dimpled as if it were a huge golf ball.  The dimples appeared polished and smooth.  No doubt water had been flowing beneath this bridge for many years, etching potholes and sharpening the large dimple rims.  That same water, flowing unnoticed beneath this portion of the Marr Glacier, probably played a major role in the demise of the ice walls cresecenting the northern edge of Arthur Harbor. 

 

This past weekend I chauffeured Bill and Chuck into the channel to show them the bridge.  I was pleased it was still standing.  It seemed unchanged since my previous visit some three weeks ago.  It is comforting in this high speed fast paced world that there still may be a ‘glacial pace.’  I hope to have the opportunity to check on the bridge during my next two months on station.  Let me know if you want an update.  Hopefully I won’t come back with:   Norsel Bridge is falling down, falling down…..

  

Comments

  1. Re: The Ice Bridge
    Posted by Dee on 04/17/07

    Maggie,
    These photos are simply breathtaking, but I'm guessing one has to be there to truly appreciate the beauty of this unique ice bridge. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Posted by on 04/20/07
      Thank you Dee for your kind words. Images rarely capture the true stunning beauty of Antarctica but I am pleased you enjoyed my bridge photos. We will try to keep posting "breathtaking" views of our southern home.

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