ICE: Arctic Post # 7

It’s what comes to mind when one thinks of the Arctic. But ice is not a simple subject; it forms in many ways and takes many forms, from delicate and beautiful to massive and frightening.

Chandelier ice

Chandelier ice, Burnside River

It can be a place to live, if you’re a polar bear.


Hudson Bay

The poetry of ice and water can work its magic as you sit on the shore and contemplate the endless lonely reaches of the North.

Beaufort Sea at sunset

Beaufort Sea at sunset

Arctic rivers feature a type of ice that I have never seen in the south. Called “aufeis,” a German word meaning “ice on top,” it forms in winter when water rises from below and spreads on top of existing ice, creating a sort of layer cake that can be several metres high. During summer breakup, the layers have a haunting beauty.

Aufeis on Burnside River. Photo by Don Taves

Aufeis on Burnside River. Photo by Don Taves

Aufeis can be terrifying if you have to find a path through towering walls on a fast current that blocks retreat if you have picked the wrong channel.

Burnside River. Photo by Don Taves

Rafting the Splits on the Burnside River. Photo by Don Taves

Or it can just be a lot of fun.

Rafters at play while the guides try to find a thru-channel. Lagoon at mouth of Firth River.

Rafters at play while the guides try to find a thru-channel. Lagoon at mouth of Firth River.


LOUSEWORTS: Arctic Post #6

Lousewort? It sounds like something you should attack with disinfectant. What an ugly name for something so beautiful. Let’s take it apart. “Wort” has nothing to do with its unfortunate homonym “wart” (or at least it didn’t until J.K. Rowling turned hogwort into Hogwarts). It’s simply an Old English word for a plant, and it shows up in many flower names, for example, coralwort, honeywort, lilywort, none of which sound particularly menacing. It’s the “louse” part that can’t be elevated by etymology; it really refers to lice. People used to think that the plant was infested with vermin and that animals grazing on it would also become infested.

We have a few louseworts in the Canadian Rockies, and although they are pretty, they are not spectacular. To see the full glory of the lousewort, you have to go to the Arctic.

#41 Arctic Loussewort and caribou antler

Arctic lousewort and caribou antler


#40 Capitate Lousewort

Capitate lousewort


#42 Arctic Lousewort

Arctic lousewort


#89 Wooly Lousewort

 Oops! How did an arctic willow get in here? My mistake. But it’s beautiful anyway.


#112 Sudetan Lousewort

Sudetan lousewort


#113 Sudetan Lousewort

Sudetan lousewort



Wooly lousewort