First Sea Ice, Point Hope 2013

snow arc point hope beach n

Wind and cold sculpted this mixture of sea spray and snow into a delicate arch. The sea ice has been late in coming to the Chukchi Sea this year. This photo was taken at 3:00 p.m. with the winter sun already skimming low on the horizon. Our month of day-long darkness will begin December 6.

The thick, slushy sea ice hisses and softly moans as it moves with the current past ice already frozen fast to shore. The hissing is vaguely reminiscent of a soft autumn breeze filtering through the dry leaves of oaks and maples in my native Pennsylvania. The moans sound like the muted voices of whales deep below the sea. All else is still, the ice stretching out as far as one can see. There is no wind, and there is no other sound.

sea jelly caught in ice n

This sea jelly, entombed in shore ice, is about the size of a polar bear’s paw.

We searched for signs of life, perhaps a seal out on the ice or a snowy owl coursing the shoreline, or even the tracks of an Arctic fox. There is nothing, just the steady hiss of the ice as it flows before us. We walk along the pebbled beach for maybe a mile and finally spot a small group of ravens. Tough birds, making a living up here during the winter.

point hope frozen beach n

If you look closely among the rocks along the Point Hope Beach, it’s common to find jade. Less common are fragments of mastodon tusks.

first sea ice 2013 n

Thick ice prevents the shore from eroding during winter storms. Polar bears depend on the ice to hunt seals. Things are changing up here. The ice seems to be coming later, and there is less of it. Red foxes are becoming more common, pushing out their smaller Arctic cousins. Once winter truly locks up the sea and the sun sinks below the horizon, there is no place on earth that is quieter. It is cold and stark but beautiful.Ā 

sea jelly caught in ice b n

We don’t always take our big cameras along on walks. Today we relied on “Little Blue,” our Cannon PowerShot D10, our trusty point and shoot.

22 thoughts on “First Sea Ice, Point Hope 2013

  1. Barbra,
    Goodness sakes, you live quite the life! What a wonderful writer and photographer you are too, amazing. Ahhh, and your recipes. I started back up with FC thanks to your inspiration. Gourmet living in the remote regions of Alaska. I love it!
    I need to pay more attention to what you having going on. I love how you respect the beauty and magic of where you are.

  2. I am a recent follower of your blog. I saw youir article in the September Alaska magazine so am enjoying reading all your stories. I live in western Michigan and are influenced by the wind blowing snow inland across the big lake so I have some experience with winter weather and snow. I especially enjoy your photos. We are retired now living in a small 850 sf apartment in a retirement community. Cozy and warm. Over the years we camped in smalll trailers and eventually had a 23ft motorhome so I appreciate your comments about living in a small space. One tiime I built a wood kayak and also owned a folding kayak so I also relate to the sail boats.


    • Hi Jim, Thanks for finding us and reading and commenting. Barbra and I talk constantly about what our retirement might look like. As we become more and more accustomed to living in small spaces, it seems to open up more and more possibilities. It’s interesting how “way leads to way” in life. We both really enjoy kayaking, but don’t get to do much of it these days. Hope all is well in Michigan! Jack

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