THE REAL SCIENCE BEHIND:
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
It’s my favorite thing about diving, my deepest joy. In an instant I’m adrift, enclosed in the purest version of my life, the one that includes only movement and science. But diving is dangerous in the Antarctic, so to stay focused I mark my depth as I drift down, ten, twenty, thirty, forty feet through the narrow cylindrical shaft we’ve melted through the ice into the world below. I ignore the butterflies of claustrophobic panic that flutter in my chest, and measure my breathing.
Until finally I drop out of the ice and into the water. Into comfort.
~an excerpt from Sleep of Reason
THE REAL SCIENCE:
Bivouacked in the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station—nothing comes easy. The science itself was a hassle: To study the history of the floating shelf, [geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey] needed seafloor sediment, which was locked under a half mile of ice.
To get to it, Smith and his colleagues had to melt 20 tons of snow to create 20,000 liters of hot water, which they then pumped through a pipe lowered down a borehole. It took them 20 hours to melt through the ice inch by inch, finally piercing through the shelf.
Later that night in his tent, Smith watched the footage … [which revealed] something the geologists hadn’t been after at all. In fact, it was something highly improbable: life.
Margaret Riley is a wordsmith, slow-kayaker, slow-skiier, photographer of strange realities, and a deep believer in the magic of story time.