Nick Cobbing | The Noorderlicht journey

Nick Cobbing (the Noorderlicht journey)

PRIVATE 45, Nick Cobbing (the Noorderlicht journey)

Nick Cobbing, The Noorderlicht journey, from PRIVATE 45 – Development. An Ecological Question

The arctic mechanism is out of balance — it is melting more than it is freezing.

I was privileged to get a glimpse inside the ice machine, to hear the collected snowfall creak under my feet and watch the melt-water gurgle down deep holes through these compacted layers, terrified that I might fall in. I flew over all this and watched the mass of solidifying ice drift so slowly towards the coastline like treacle or honey, displacing the rubble of moraine at its side like toast crumbs. As the cold arctic air burned my face, I framed patterns in the mass below me and from the safety of the bow of a ship I saw vast chunks of glacier fall into the sea as bergs. From an inflatable boat I found holes in their surface and saw how the bergs slowly gave themselves to the Atlantic waves that broke over them. I watched oceanographers compare the salinity of the ocean with this influx of melting freshwater and mail this data back to universities and institutes. Every wave and drop of snow, like a cog in a gigantic ice-making machine.

Returning 2 years later on a smaller ship, I was forced to confront the Arctic in human terms; a climate that could kill me if I put a foot wrong. I realized how dependent I was on the schooner that carried us across to Greenland from Svalabard, how much our safety depended on the success of one man to interpret the charts and weather systems of the furious seas in between. Glad to reach land, once there I was forced to reconsider what the natural world meant to me; something that could kill me with a stroke of its hand.


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