Icefloes, icebergs, sea ice of all kinds – amazing stuff. My letter I for the A to Z Challenge is ice, but as it’s flash fiction day I have to do a short story (500 rather than the usual 1000 word story).
There are so many different kinds of ice – these are just a few I spotted on holiday (go back to E for more details!): ice on the seas approaching Svalbard; sea ice with leads through it on Thursday – completely gone by Saturday in main pic above; icicles – not normal on Svalbard, they’d had some warm weather!; pockets in the snow on the frozen lake, and pockets in the snow… on Mars (NASA photo via Zooniverse).
The Icefloe Cometh
The seal pushed its whiskers through the slushy surface ice, sticking its nostrils into the cold arctic air, testing for predators before showing anything else. Safe! It exhaled with a puff of water vapour and broke the surface with its head. All clear.
It was further up the fjord than anticipated, The ice should not be this thin so close to the coast, not at this time of year. Another mild winter, averaging -20 C. Desperately cold nights interspersed with days when the ice had melted, even on land, where icicles hung from roofs. Too soon. The fish weren’t here yet, they’d be out in the warmish water on the banks, deep enough to think they were safe. The seal had followed the warmer water, but it had pushed him towards the islands instead of the banks. Silly mistake. Potentially lethal. Still, there shouldn’t be bears around here. Too many people and too much noise.
A machine started up on the land, and the seal slid gracefully beneath the surface, heading back out to sea.
It made good progress, coming up in leads of open water that opened up between tracers of solid ice. He got in among some growlers at one stage, small icebergs that could confuse a larger animal by tipping without warning. The seal amused itself by pushing a few with his nose, just at the best point for the fulcrum effect. He skittered away as one started to tip, revelling in the bubbles and krill disturbed by its crashing revolution. He took a deeper path, watching for activity on the surface. He was near the herring beds now, and birds could be a nuisance.
Instead he saw feet, black pads swirling with white fur, paddling along steadily, deliberately, the body above buoyed along through the heavy freezing surface water. The seal considered their relative speeds and turned away. The bear looked intent on its heading, but the seal would need to breathe before he outswam it. He surfaced behind some blocky ice that crushed together to heave one surface above another. It would do for a bear resting place at a pinch, but what the bear really needed was a proper flat ice floe a good meter or five thick. The seal bobbed up and down, breathing and considering the likelihood of fish in the area. The bear continue paddling, It looked tired. It needed a good meal. Fish preferably, but seal if not. The seal did not intend to be a bear’s meal, not today. But the bear was heading at an angle to an ice floe up ahead. It would miss it. Climate change was a damnable thing when it meant your hunting ground simply disappeared.
The seal flopped into the water with an ungainly splash. Attracted by the possibility of food, and with no good reason to continue on the line he was taking, the bear angled towards the splash. The seal increased his speed.
The ice floe cometh, the seal would continue, and the bear could rest.
© J M Pett 2015