After years of responding to marine glaciers in my paintings, I was finally able to have direct experience of marine ice in the Arctic with the support of a Grant for Artists Projects (GAP) from Artist Trust in July 2016.
I took the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward on the Kenai peninsula. In Seward I met with a guide for a two-day marine glacier expedition by kayak. We camped along the bay formed by Aialik glacier and paddled in late afternoon at high tide into Pederson glacier's lagoon, navigating between icebergs where harbor seals slept in the sun. In the early morning we made the journey toward Aialik against mounting winds and surf descending from the glacier, turning back when it was still possible to do so without capsizing. Later in the afternoon the water taxi that came to pick us up fought the waves to come closer to the immense Aialik. When it filled the sky before us, blowing down icy wind and calving sheets of ice with deep booms of "white thunder," it was still almost a mile away. On my last day in Seward I hiked on land along the retreating tongue of Exit Glacier. All three of these glaciers flow down from the Harding Icefield, a remnant of the great ice sheets that once covered much of North America. The retreat of these sinewy trails of ice, massive outlets of the planet's freshwater reserves, is both the image and reality of global warming.