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The Cryosphere

The Antarctic atmosphere consists of ice clouds and ice vapor; the hydrosphere is ice rivers and ice seas; the lithosphere, ice plateaus and ice mountains....Out of simple ice crystals emerges a vast hierarchy of ice masses, ice terranes, and ice structures, collectively an entire continent.

The icebergs : tabular bergs, glacier bergs, ice islands, bergy bits, growlers, brash ice, white ice, blue ice, green ice, dirty ice. The sea ices : pack ice, ice floes, ice rinds, ice hummocks, ice ridges, ice flowers, ice stalactites, pancake ice, frazil ice, grease ice, congelation ice, infiltration ice, undersea ice, vuggy ice, new ice, old ice, brown ice, rotten ice. The coastal ices : fast ice, shore ice, glacial-ice tongues, ice piedmonts, ice fringes, ice cakes, ice foots, ice fronts, ice walls, floating ice, grounded ice, anchor ice, rime ice, ice ports, ice shelves, ice rises, ice bastions, ice haycocks, ice lobes, ice streams.

The mountain ices : glacial ice, valley glaciers, cirque glaciers, piedmont glaciers, ice fjords, ice layers, ice pipes, ice falls, ice folds, ice faults, ice pinnacles, ice lenses, ice aprons, ice fronts, ice slush. The ground ices : ice wedges, ice veins, permafrost. The polar plateau ices : ice sheets, ice caps, ice domes, ice streams, ice divides, ice saddles, ice rumples. The atmospheric ices : ice grains, ice crystals, ice dust, pencil ice, plate ice, bullet ice.

The iceberg contains a record of all this; travels with a mythic quality, a retrograde journey out of an underworld. Yet a return does not lead to more splendid scenes, as a trip through the gorge of the Grand Canyon does, or to richer displays of life, as a voyage to the interior of the Amazon, or to more opulent civilizations, living or dead, as Egypt's Valley of the Kings, or even to greater knowledge, as the ultimately moral journeys of Odysseus, Dante, even Marlowe do. It leads only to more ice.