candle ice

“Ice,” writes American writer Stephen J. Pyne in his book The Ice: A Journey to Antarctica, “connects land to land, land to sea, sea to air, air to land, ice to ice. . . . Out of simple ice crystals is constructed a vast hierarchy of ice masses, ice terraces, and ice structures.” Like every other life form, ice, too, has a life cycle—it is created, it grows, begins to decay, then disintegrates, falling back into the water whence it was born. As ice ages, it is said to “rot.” Candle ice, or candled ice, is a type of rotting sheet ice named so because in the process of decaying it forms in its interior clusters of vertical prisms resembling delicate, waxy tapers. Often forming directly beneath a seemingly solid layer of surface ice, this eight-to-ten-inch-thick substructure—sometimes called honeycomb ice for its resemblance to that kind of uniform lattice—presents a serious danger to ice travelers.

Gretel Ehrlich