Ice Lens: Seeing the world through frost-colored glasses

Today, I’m starting a new exercise here at Boreal Bites, another way to look at the Interior. Each week I’ll take photos around Fairbanks and post a few here on the blog. Feel free to look through this new Ice Lens.

I’ll discuss one or two photos from each update, and you can always access the full gallery from the top of the page.

A little background:

Ice lenses fascinate Alaska’s scientists and frustrate its engineers. They’re a frozen formation within rock or permanently frozen ground that rests underneath many of the soils in the far north. When ice lenses form, they push up soil in a process known as frost heaving. This can form beautiful patterns on the tundra landscape or rip apart roads.

Boreal Alaska, both as a culture and an ecosystem, is undulating and heaving like an ice lens. Boreal Bites sets out to document this, and photography is the best way to learn about some of those changes.

In its simplest form, Ice Lens will be a photo gallery to grow alongside Boreal Bites. However, I hope we can use these visual cues to start a conversation about Interior Alaska and its plant, animal and human communities.

Plants inside and outside the West Ridge Research Building. Kelsey Gobroski, Nov. 3, 2011.

Back to the week at hand: here’s a photo from West Ridge at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

I’m seeing a lot of plants that never changed into their fall colors before it snowed. Now they’re doomed to freeze and be buried in their summer garb. Maybe this is part of their life strategy, or maybe some of these plants aren’t accustomed to the length of the seasons here. This is all speculation, but it makes for eerie scenes in the gardens around campus.

Meanwhile, flora from southern climes thrive in greenhouses and along windowsills.

I’m going to break away from the objectivity of science and journalism and personify, if you’ll allow me. Ready? Okay.

Any sign of green in winter is simultaneously endearing and rejuvenating for me, but I can’t help but feel for these poor plants. Both the snow-covered and the indoor plants look confused and trapped.

This geranium and this clump of grass are neighbors, united in their awkward resting places through the winter.


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