|Kotzebue in October: The Chukchi Sea is on the left|
Here in Kotzebue, they tell me that the snow is late this year. It is so far west of Juneau that the light is different. We are in the same time zone so it is darker in the morning and stays lighter into the evening.
When I first saw the frozen Chukchi Sea from the wide road that faces the sea in Kotzebue, I couldn't quite take it in. How can a sea, the margin of the ocean, be frozen? But there it was, right in front of me. Ice that went on forever. People talk about feeling small in front of a mountain. I had never understood that feeling until I stood at the edge of the frozen sea, feeling small in the immensity of the sea ice. There is so much of it. And even though high school chemistry tells us that salt water can freeze, albeit at a lower temperature, it is still disturbing. Every fall, the ice covers the Chukchi Sea, sometimes up to 6 feet deep in places. Standing on the edge, I can see mountains far away to my right. To my left, the sea stretches into tomorrow.
Ice defines Alaska. It is white and sometimes blue and sometimes black. It is always cold and hard and, to my mind, unforgiving. In this picture below, the ice meets the sky and it all seems to be one. Soon people will be traveling on it. Where do you get your bearings when there is so much of it?