sea ice

Image/photo courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.

This week I’m tackling I is for Ice and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Listen here or download on iTunes or Google Play.

Welcome to the I is for Ice part of the program. This episode is packed with information about ice—I’m going to talk for a few minutes about the relationship between ice and seafood, then I’m going to tell you a story about the first time I saw a glacier in the French Alps. I’ll finish up with glacier ice.

In the IUCN part of the program, we’ll explore the high seas and what is being done now to protect this mostly unchartered area.

It’s no secret that ice and seafood go together.

Hit up any grocery store or fish market and you’ll see what I mean—whole fish and shellfish are buried in shaved ice. Kudos to anyone in the shaved ice machine business. So since seafood decomposes quickly once it is brought out of the water, Ice is critical to maintaining freshness and flavor. But ice also slows bacterial growth.

On a sustainable fishing vessel, the fish are held in containers with ice. Some of those massive trawlers are out on the high seas for weeks and months. Think of the ice! Now think about what no ice means for the fish. Seafood pirates or those fishing for illegal, unreported unregulated fishing aren’t super concerned about whether there’s enough ice for the fish. Hell, some of the illegal fishing captains aren’t are even concerned about the humans on board.

The moral of the story?

Know where your fish comes from.

  • Now when you are shopping for fish at the market, remember to bring your cooler bag (and if you’re really awesome, bring a few frozen gel packs from home), or ask the person behind the fish counter for a small bag of ice for transport.
  • Once you get your fish home, you should not store your fish on ice.
  • But do keep your fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Usually the back.
  • And if you aren’t going to cook that day or the next, toss it in the freezer in the same package that you brought it home.

So, I was thirty years old during the early winter of 1991 when I traveled from the Florida Keys where I lived and managed a 64-seat run down diner, to ski the French Alps.

It was for the first time I was awed by the beauty of aquamarine-colored glacial ice.

After a few days swooshing down the slopes in Chamonix, my fiancé at the time and I began our day trip to Aiguille du Midi and Vallee Blanche, considered by some to be the most famous off-piste ski run in the world. Now. You might like to know, I was a beginner skier. This wasn’t Everest, but Vallee Blanche is over 12,000 feet altitude and one of the tallest mountains I’d ever skied.

We rode the tram to the mountaintop in Chamonix. There were maybe thirty or so people in our group, but there were many groups skiing that day and every day. We boarded the cable car that would carry us to the twelve-mile run. Thirty minutes later we arrived at the most gorgeous site I had ever witnessed. The snow was a brilliant white and went on for an eternity.

At this point, there was no turning back. The only way down was to ski the glacier and the mountain.

I was terrified, but my ego and pride kept me grounded.

In groups of ten, tethered only by a small rope tied around our waists, we set off down a set of steep steps that had been carved into the snowy mountainside. Just like the thing the kind of mountaineering you see on National Geographic.

I held my ski poles in my left hand and held or maybe clutched is a better word a thick rope with my right hand. A sheer drop off lay to my right. Untouched snow glistened like diamonds in the morning sun. The guides carried our skis. Two guides per group of ten or maybe twelve. I can’t rememeber.

When I arrived at the bottom of the steps, a vast white flat plain spread before my eyes for as far as I could see. It was early morning and puffs of smoke from our breathing filled the air as we guides untied us and told us about our day journey back down the mountain. “Stay with the group. If you start to lose control (God forbid—my inner voice although Lord knows I probably muttered it out loud), snow plow. hard. Do not try to be a hero and help your fellow skiers.” I didn’t think at this level of skiing that someone would be foolish enough to ski away from the tour.

But sometimes fate has its way no matter what one’s intentions are.

Just before lunch, a woman in my group lost control. I was near her when it happened. My gut impulse was to reach out and grab her. I’m sure I held out my pole and probably said hey or something vague. It’s hard to remember because the whole day seemed surreal like I was on my own Nat Geo adventure. And I might have said hey under my breath. I know for a fact I planted my poles as deep in the hard-packed surface as I could and froze.

Then the guide’s voice boomed across the vast wilderness. “Snow plow, snow plow, snow plow.” Skis cut across the ice after her. He could only stop her by skiing ahead of her and digging his skis sideways onto the mountainside. She skied directly into him. Knocked him down. The second guide swooshed in to help.

I was horrified. That feeling of helplessness was unnerving.

I remember being shaken to my core. I had no desire to be near her as if her mere presence was bad luck. I felt sorry for her. I was mad at her. Mad for marring my day with her what? carelessness. I don’t think I was the only person that felt that way. Maybe I was. The thing is, it could have happened to any of us. But this is the woman who swooshed down the slopes with grace earlier in the week with my fiancé when I waffled at the top of the mountain. Afraid to ride the moguls down. Only moving when they turned at the bottom and were out of sight. So I was jealous too. And so my fiancée, a generous man, was the bigger person. Kind. Mature. We sat with the woman at lunch. She was visibly shaken. He skied close to her after lunch and for the remainder of the day. I stayed away.

I stayed away.

I knew the dangers of extreme skiing on the glacier. It was the thrill of the unknown. The excitement of conquering my fears.

Later that afternoon, as we walked uphill in a single file with our skies on our shoulders, an avalanche exploded across the valley. You hear it and think, what was that? But in your gut. You already know. And then you pray for survivors.

The back side down the mountain was sloppy, wet, heavy snow. Huge trees loomed everywhere. This was where I was afraid I’d get hurt.

I ended my journey in the mud at the bottom of the hill. The shadows were long. The air warmer. I was exhausted and exhilarated. I unlocked my ski bindings and was awash in emotions and sensations—wanted to kiss the ground and cry. My calves ached with relief.

I headed toward the yellow school bus that took would take me back to the hotel. My fiancée and the woman were on the bus, laughing and talking. I plopped into an empty seat. Waved. She waved back. A grateful enthusiastic wave. He hands were crippled with arthritis. I wondered if that was why she couldn’t stop herself. I felt a pang of regret for feeling so mean toward her. My fiancée blew me an air kiss. I could tell by the expression on his face he was proud of me. For making it down the hill alone. I leaned back in my seat and shut my eyes.

I leaned back in my seat and shut my eyes.

A snapshot of that glacier—a wall of sea-blue ice filled my dreams.

So what does a glacier have to do with seafood?

Welcome back to the I is for IUCN part of the program. Before I move on, what did you think about the last part of the program? You know since I’m still a newbie to podcasting, I wanted to try out something a little different. Hit me up on Facebook. I’d love your feedback.

Did you know that glacial ice covers ten percent of the earth’s surface? That ice includes glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica.

That ice includes glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica.

Glaciers contain about seventy-five percent of the earth’s fresh water. Water that isn’t available to us.

When scientists talk about the glaciers melting, they’re mostly talking about sea ice around Greenland and the Artic. Sea ice is frozen ocean water. It is critical to the health of our planet because it influences climate, wildlife, and people who live in the Arctic according to NSIDC.

So how do we know the ice is melting?

Scientists use satellites to measure the ice melt. But have only measured sea ice since 1979.

I can assure you if you’ve ever seen a glacier and many of you have been to Alaska I’m sure or done some mountain climbing, you wouldn’t think that a little melting ice would make a difference. But this is me, a layman talking. Scientists know better.

There is much to learn yet about what the future will hold. One thing is certain, we cannot go on with business as usual.

Enter IUCN, the International Union of the Conservation of Nature.

Fifteen themes. One that might interest you is the Marine and Polar theme. Two key spotlights in that theme are a Walter Shoals high seas expedition going on right now. Walters shoal lies 700 miles south of Madagascar. And the twenty-six-day expedition’s focus is to understand the ecosystems of the high seas to help build laws to govern these fragile resources. Right now there are no laws governing the high seas in terms of fishing, traffic, pollution or conservation.

The second spotlight at IUCN in the Marine and Polar theme is a 450-page report titled, Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences

Now I don’t expect you will read the entire report, but there is a link in the Show Notes if you dare. Bottom line?

There are seven recommendations in conclusion from the need for global policy action to updated risk assessments to economic analysis. But at the heart of it all is the effect of CO2 emissions. We must address the ocean in all parts when we talk about climate change. From the melting glaciers to the deep dark trenches at the ocean bottom and every marine species and ecosystem in between. “Change is already underway and already locked in for future decades,” according to the IUCN report.

Change may not be obvious because we can’t see it, but it can be altered. And it’s up to us to make that change flow in a more positive direction. I’m wearing a tee short today from Phipps Conservatory that says If not us, who? If not now, when?

I think the tee says it all. Don’t you?

Need an idea about what you can do now?

  • Head over to IUCN website.
  • Sign up for its newsletter, find a job, become a member, join a commission.
  • Or on a tangible level, plant a tree.

That’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to GFBO. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.

Next up, J is for Jellyfish and Jewfish.

Have a great two weeks,

Show Notes

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