by Marilyn Fritz


      The strong, howling wind hurled powdered ice and snow into the air, where limited light refracted a simulation billions of tiny glistening diamonds. It was difficult to see through the protective face shield with the dim winter light, but the dancing sparkles brightened the view. I remembered this was one of the things I loved about the Arctic, at the same time hating the bitter cold. After pausing a moment to marvel at the icy wonder, my senses spiked with acknowledgement of precious time wasted. Waving, I prompted our team to move on. We made our way to the ice shelf, not even sure what we were searching for.
     Personally, I felt like it was another planet far removed from anything I ever encountered before. If I had my way, I would be back in California, on a sandy beach in the warm sun. But here I am, here we are, on the edge of a giant ice shelf, chancing that we are subject to calamity, but these are just my thoughts on the edge of the universe. Then it comes. The ice beneath vibrates, the rocking motion almost knocking us off our feet.
     The ice cliff sheared off straight down, crashing into the freezing water below, echoing a deafening sound through the crisp air. "Wait! Stop! Get back!" Harsh winds whipped and howled, swirling around me. I shouted. "NO! More of the ice is going to sheer off, get back!" My voice seemed to blow right back into my dense fur parka, and face mask that was also embedded under two thermal hoods. I tried to get everyone's attention by waving my cold stiff arms, then pointed my bulky double layer gloves toward the edge of the ice range.
     In a party of ten, six of the people were dangerously close to the fracturing ice shelf. I tried to communicate the pending calamity, difficult since my voice was already hoarse from yelling over the wind, now forcing it over the noise of the icefall. Sheer-offs are multiple, a domino effect occurring in a matter of seconds of one another, I had to get their attention quick. "Shit, shit!"