Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Amazing Ice Wonderland

When the cold winds off the Arctic Ice and North Sea blow inland , the most ordinary things turn into sculptures that no human hand can create.

This sudden , natural creation in Estonia will certainly attract people from afar to view its fantasies. There is no guarantee that it will happen again , next year.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice and Fire A Deadly Duo

On Sunday night the deadly nature of winter in the Arctic revealed itself.

Iqaluit Fire/ CBC/Paul Moore
A house fire in row housing in Iqaluit , Nunavut , demonstrated just how frightening winter can be. In the intense cold with a windchill of -50C , the water from firemens' hoses froze upon contact with the air.

The vital time is always the very first minutes . That is when water can hold fire back before it grows ,  spreads and devastates .

When winter is so cold as it is right now in the far north , those minutes never come. The water freezes and cannot do the job.

Water doesn't work until the fire is so large that it changes the air temperature . By then, the damage , and in this case death , has happened . Nothing can change what is done.

 All that is left is a horrifically beautiful monument to the dead.

How sad I feel for the people in this community ? My heart goes out to them.

The full news article on the fire can be read at .

Ron Wassink , Iqaluit photographer has been on the ground in Nunavut. His photos and commentary capture the reality for the people who have been left homeless by this conflagration .

Friday, February 24, 2012

Footprints in the Snow

 This short video tribute to Bill Monroe ( the Bluegrass Icon)  is a fun interpretation of his song " Footprints In the Snow". Thanks RikkyHardo wherever you are.

Someone Is Out There Watching

My nephew captured these tracks out near the ice fishing lake . He wanted to know which it was - Cougar or Timber Wolf . Both are active in the area but it turns out they are the tracks of the illusive Canadian Lynx .

Usually all that is seen of this animal are it's tracks in the snow -still fresh - because he was just standing there watching you before you came by and noticed his traces.

And like a wolf or a cougar , the lynx has moved far enough for you not to notice him . Yet close enough to continue watching you.

Last Friday afternoon , on our way into Mattawa ,we had to step on the brakes . A Lynx very casually came off the snowbank at the side of the highway and crossed the road in front of our car .

We were excited to see this cat at all. It is a rare thing , indeed . With no more than a glance at us from the corner of his eye , he climbed the other snowbank and disappeared into the bush.

Of course , I had no camera or video to prove it . But , I could bring you back and show you the footprints in the snow.

A Room With This View

                                     The struggle of the teenage boy summed up in three photos.

                                                             How to break free from home...

                                                      ...and how to hang on to home.

When things are not always so black and white.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Inuit FolkTale: Sound Tells the Story

 This Inuit (Eskimo) legend demonstrates how even without the knowledge of a language the sounds of an environment and the simplest of pictures creates full understanding.

'The Owl Who Married a Goose' animated by Caroline Leaf was put out by the National Film Board of Canada in 1974.

It reminds me of the shadow puppetry used to tell these stories to children . Perhaps inside the igloo on cold winter nights. Where the stories and tales of the past come to life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Help save Canada's sage-grouse

Tanya Tagaq and the Kronos Quartet

Three days in Whitehorse ,Yukon . No musical score. Colours of sound. A relationship to the Arctic.

Listen to how Tanya explains her environment to fellow musicians. How many of us can relate so intimately to the sounds in our environment ? The musical artists of The Kronos Quartet did a magnificent job using their strings to imitate the sounds and feelings of Tanya's instrument- her throat and her world .

Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Accommodation
There is winter accommodation...

Such as this traditional igloo made of snow blocks.

Then there is accommodation... such as the Hotel de Glace- The Ice Hotel in Quebec... also made of snow and ice.
Inside the hotel , everything including the furniture is made of ice.

For a closer look at an Ice Hotel ( January-March) check out . Tap on Ice Hotel and then Art and design in the righthand column.

Inside the igloo , there may be women throat singing a lullaby to their children imitating the sounds of their environment.

This style of singing developed in an environment of ice and snow . It is a rich and intricate interpretation of life in that environment. Much more can be found by typing in Inuit Throat Singing on Youtube.

Ron's Hard Earned Photos

Ron Wassink  ( up in Iqaluit put up a great post today. He finally was able, through tough conditions , hard work and cooperarative weather conditions, to get his photos of the Northern Lights. They are spectacular.

What is really 'cool' is that Ron put together a list of steps to taking a good photo of the Aurora . If you want to take such a shot then Ron's post is essential . There is nothing like experience as a teacher.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ice Cleats
These may come in handy where a lot of walking on ice is a necessity. Although I wouldn't be doing that in sneakers. They are a little scary looking.


These seem more practical for regular use. Adaptable for all sorts of footwear. And they can fit in your pocket.
I wonder if there is a warning to remove them before stepping onto sidewalks/roads/floors that the spikes won't penetrate. Hm-mm.

When Melted Ice Crystals Flash Freeze

Our winter has been one of thaw-freeze-rain-freeze-snow .Over and Over.
The one really large snowfall was shovelled off the driveway only to be washed away with a downpour . Each subsequent small snowfall became absorbed into the cycle.

 I don't like this kind of winter. I am sure there are those in more temperate northern climates who spend these kinds of winter regularly. But , I prefer the snow to the never-ending sheets of ice covering the driveway.

So far I have had several neighbours who have fallen badly. If there is a good way to fall on ice , I don't know what it is. Concussions and broken bones are not what you hope for from a walk outside. I might have to invest in some ice fishing cleats to walk in.

What gets my goat is that people think that it's funny. Go figure!?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snowflakes-Frozen Ice Crystals 3D

The Snowflake Man- Snowflake Bentley

Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) was born and raised in the snow belt near Lake Champlain in Vermont . This man was the very first person to photograph the image of a snowflake. This short documentary video tells his story. A tale of how a childhood fascination became a lifetime obsession .

"...To photograph the most magnificent of all snowflakes..."

With all the technology available now, we can enjoy the beauty of a single snow crystal so easily compared to what Bentley had to go through . It had never been done before .

Crystals from the Sky and Kenneth G. Libbrecht

Most of us recognize how wonderfully beautiful , quiet and peaceful a blanket of snow over our world is. Even when  we know that there is a heck of a lot of shovelling to come . If you are like me, you postpone it for as long as possible . Just so you can enjoy it a little longer.

photo taken by K.G.Libbrecht at

Watching the flakes fall is mesmerizing . Individual snow crystals clumped together drifting soundlessly down onto the earth. When we catch even one alone- separate from the rest- we squint closely trying to see its structure before it disappears in our envelope of heat.

 I found Kenneth G.Libbrecht's website in 2006 , I finally got to see those flakes and snow crystals as closely and intricately as is possible. Kenneth is a photographer  , among others things. And he proudly shares his love of these miracles of nature for all to see.

Visit him, then tell me why this falling snow shouldn't sound like tinkling glass.

For everything you would want to know about how these crystals form and all their structures visit

You will see some of the most magnificent photos that will make you want to study those little gems that land on your glove even more closely.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How Plants Warn Each Other of Danger

Oh how I wish I could see this science documentary from the BBC . Sometimes a trailer just is not enough. It is simply a teaser. If anyone out there can steer me to the full program on the internet , I would appreciate it.

How Plants Warn Each Other of Danger

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bird-Killing Buildings

Ecojustice, Canada's leading legal champion for a healthy environment , as they call themselves , pointed readers of their Facebook page to this case before the courts. Toronto's Worst Bird Killing Buildings  .

We all know the fate of birds that fly into our picture windows at home . Imagine how many die on the thousands of windows that cover the high-rise office buildings in any city across the world. This blog post by Surfbirds brings it home.

By the way , putting a silhouette of any flying bird on your window does prevent impacts. This is especially important on south and west facing windows....or windows that line up on opposing walls.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Long Sleep

After watching Lily the Black Bear ( see the last post ) for a couple of winters , it has become obvious to me that bears are not true hibernators such as ground hogs or ground squirrels. Then why do we persist in calling them hibernators?

I discovered that like a lot of things , it is simply a question of clarifying our vocabulary . Hibernation has degrees and each degree has a name : true, torpor, aestivation and diapause . Not all of these states are restricted to winter .

The best place to find out more, laid out simply for easy understanding , is this site :Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation . Keep things simple and many things are easy to understand...for the most part.