Published on:

One of my favourite writers these days is Willis Eschenbach, whose essays at wattsupwiththat often combine ingenious scientific rationality with lyrical prose. Here he is on the subject of the sea ice off Alaska:

My point in this post? Awe, mostly, at the damaging power of cold. As a seaman, cold holds many more terrors than heat. When enough ice builds up on a boat’s superstructure, it rolls over and men die. The sun can’t do that. The Titanic wasn’t sunk by a heat wave.

The thing about ice? You can’t do a dang thing about it. You can’t blow up a glacier, or an ice sheet like you see in the Bering Sea above. You can’t melt it. The biggest, most powerful icebreaker can’t break through more than a few feet of it. When the ice moves in, the game is over.

Now me, I’m a tropical boy. My feeling is that well-behaved ice sits peacefully in my margarita glass, making those lovely cold drips run down the outside, and giving me a brain freeze when I hold the glass to my forehead.

But when ice jumps out of my glass and starts running all around painting the landscape white and solidifying the ocean and falling on my head and freezing my … begonias, well, at that point the fun’s over. I call that “water behaving badly”.

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist