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Arctic Notes 8 – 9/25/10

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Glacial Arktic Sketch, audio file

Arktos Free-verse (scientific style!!!)

“One day differed very little from another on board the ship, and the description of one is, in every particular of any importance, a description of all.”
Fridtjof Nansen, The Farthest North (1897)

Circles within circles, points, lines, dots, fog and fjords:

I’m writing to you through a haze of disrupted Circadian rhythms – I haven’t been able to sleep much, and some of the best thoughts I’ve had on this voyage have been in the place between dreams and waking life. In fact, the landscape has come to blend seamlessly with the dreams I’ve been having. Basically my sleep has been drenched with abstract geometric, asymmetrical shadows of the Arctic landscape, blurred with various unresolved music motifs and patterns, patterns, patterns…

Today we returned to the fjord Magdalenefjorden to see Alkebreen Glacier – a vanishing piece of geology that is essentially, a new blank space on the any map you care to look at. We had arrived in the morning and several layers of the fog cut across the mountains like an abstracted photoshop edit across the mountain line: they were that precise. You look up and can’t see anything above a certain point on the mountains that line the fjord. The fog is a precise delineation of the temperature differentials that set the tone for the fjord. That morning the mountains and Alkebreen glacier were cloaked in clouds, and a sense of timeless calm hung over everything in sight, like an emerald sheen, azure blue, mauve day dream. Sound stretched up and down the valley, carrying the echoes Eider ducks and Glaucous gull bird calls over the water. All is calm and still with geologic tempo – most of the rocks that we see are young: they come from the Mesozoic period. Rocks that had been ground into jagged chunks, dirt at the base of the mountain, and the permafrost lichen all lent a sense of suspended time to the place. But then again, so many of the places have that kind of displaced timelessness.

Eerily enough, Alkebreen glacier is listed on most maps, but it’s pretty much vanished, and we were walking in the tracks of its disappearance. Geologic time was etched into the surface ripples we traversed, and the sense of desolation made so many things I was thinking about sink into the rhythms that I had been working on for the “Arctic Rhythms: Ice Music” composition project from this voyage. I walk through the landscape, hear my breath, and look inward and outward while one foot goes in front of the other on the frozen earth. The inner journey, like my route on the ice, isn’t a linear one. It’s an uncharted meandering descent through layers and layers of consciousness that mirror the fog layers shrouding the fjord, and I’m tossed forwards and backwards like a swimmer in the currents of movement that surround me. The color schematic of the fjord: blue, green, grey white fog, speckled brown dirt on white snow. Clear ice chunks that have drifted onto the beach we walk along… and the occasional silver grey reindeer that stands and watches as we walk by. Our voices carry through the distance and bounce back up and down the valley. Imagine the sound of your voice coming from the side of a mountain half a kilometer away, and multiply it until it fades away. Think: acoustic seismology, a tool for measuring the earth with your voice either by refraction or reflection, the difference between the two being mainly a function of scale in that reflection facilitates the imaging of a smaller area in detail. That is how we navigate the mountains that surround the fjord.

That’s the vibe.

There is no really apposite description of the context and content of the situation. I’ve thought of how this journey is unfolding. So I’m going to do a series of free associations, and contextual imaginary hyperlinks. Think of it as geographic haiku or something like that. So in honor of the sense of poetry to mirror the landscape, I’ll just write some terms that have been drifting through my mind. Try and think what these terms would sound like. It’s a thought-game, but there’s something to be said for free-association.

Arktos Free-verse (scientific style!!!) pt1
Isostasy: from the Greek term “isos” – ‘equal’ and “stasis” – ‘standstill.’ Think of the Earth as a series of interlocking systems that are never in equilibrium. Negative feedback loops, Cyclic symmetries and asymmetries… The world is never in equilibrium, but it’s component systems try to find dynamic feedback mechanisms to create almost every aspect of life as we know it. This planet is made up of a series of patterns seeking some kind of equilibrium that can and never should be achieved. Celebrate the disequilibrium.

Polynia – open water surrounded by ice gets put into a situation where pressure ridges, archipelagoes, and almost every sense of navigation collide. We move through this every day.

Orography – time written into geological movement of mountains, ripples of geology. The word comes from the Greek terms “oro” – “hill” and “graphia” – ‘to write.” The mountains write. It’s got the same root word as phonograph – “graph” writing with “phono” – sound. I’m trying to think of the mountains as a living archive scripted onto the face of the land. Translate this into sound: ice stream dynamics, ice sheet glacial formations. Flow.

Arktos Free-verse (scientific style!!!) pt2
Circumpolar sediment, geological flux, asymmetric water turbulence, geodesic flow, time line disruption, anthropocenic, oceanic, time written in the landscape of mountains etched into the landscape. Glacial cancellation, stratification, geomorphology, precipitation, light, fog, density, free form flow, albedo synchronization, open polar sea, theoretical geographers, plate tectonic shift, polar night, polar twilight, celestial aurora, hydrosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, litospheric. Time lapse geography, True North, northern hemispheric, geographic North Pole, magnetic North Pole, Arktos, nautical twilight, midnight sun, circles of latitude, lines of longitude, ellipse, elliptical logical, orthogonal logic. Geophones. Hydrophones. Meta-flow. Geodetic, atomic time scale, Hyperborea, Thule, and last but not least, Arctic Rhythms and the International Terrestrial Reference System. Geomancy, neural wave forms. Something like that…

That’s kind of it for me today!


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