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Newsmakers

Postcards from the (Ice) Edge

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Postcards from the (Ice) Edge
The Ice Edge is in an ocean of ice packs, some of them called ‘ice pancakes.’

THE ICE EDGE, Norway — The Ice Age has left a chilling if not stunning array of marvels and mementoes that can set your senses on fire.

The Ice Edge is just about nine degrees from the North Pole, and you can say quite literally that up here, you are both at the edge of — and on top of — the world.

My journey to the edge of the northern hemisphere took me onboard the Silver Cloud of Silversea Expeditions.

I was challenged to be an “explorer” by Shan Dioquino David of Corporate International Travel and Tours (CITTI).

“Just like there is a child in each of us, there is an explorer in each of us, too,” Shan says.

To take us to places we’ve never been to or even imagined, the Silver Cloud, a floating luxury hotel as well, forged through the ice to take us to an ocean of frozen diamonds — ice chunks bobbing up and down the Arctic Ocean.

To get to the edge, we carefully disembarked from the ship into “Zodiacs,” sturdy rubber boats that are like ice breakers (our guide prefers to call them “forgers”) for their ability to forge through floating ice packs, some bigger than a king-sized bed, others as small as ice cubes.

“We’re like wading into a giant frozen margarita,” said Neil, the skipper of our Zodiac, as the boat nudged through the ice-choked waters, “Or an ice chest waiting to be filled with San Miguel beer cans.”

The Monaco Glacier.
Photos by Joanne Rae Ramirez

***

Before reaching the Ice Edge, we anchored at Monacobreen in the Svalbard archipelago, 60 percent of which is covered by glaciers. Plants and other vegetation cover only six percent and the rest of the surface is just rocks. Because it is so far north, it has four months of the Midnight Sun — just like now, when the sun never sets outside our cabin’s panoramic glass doors. You can make the sun “set” by drawing your cabin’s blackout curtains.

Glaciers are remnants of the Ice Age thousands of years ago — but I like to describe them as frozen mementoes. Frozen memories. Eye candy and “ice candy” to the jaded eye that has beheld more concrete and steel in its lifetime.

There are several deep fjords, prominent glaciers in the northern reaches of Svalbard, the northern hemisphere’s widest glacier front. On the second day of the cruise, we were able to get up close and to me, very personal, to the Monaco and Seliger Glaciers. We were ferried in Zodiacs from our ship to a fjord where you can almost touch the ice floating on the water and behold the glacier as if it were an edifice across a wide street. It was that close.

Glaciers are made up of fallen snow that, through the years, have compressed into large ice masses. What makes glaciers unique is their ability to move. Some glaciers are as small as football fields, while others are over a hundred kilometers long! Think about a mall of ice!

Ice formations or “brash” floating on the calm water have fallen through time from glaciers and icebergs. They look like crushed ice, much like the one in a halo-halo or margarita glass, but chunkier and molded into the size of a ball or boulder.

Icebergs show only 10 percent of their mass above water, so indeed, our Zodiac had to carefully maneuver around the tips of many icebergs.

Surrounded by two majestic glaciers, snow-dusted mountains and icebergs that looked as if they were designed by architects, on a sea dotted by floating ice formations, I felt like I was in an open-air cathedral. With only the sound of gentle waves as my hymn, the glaciers my altar, I was in a sea of awe and thanksgiving.

How could something so stone-cold set my soul on fire?

(To be continued)

The Texas Bar is actually an island.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

ICE EDGE

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