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With the frozen top of the world melting to liquid, an expedition set out to untangle the physics and help forecast its future.
"Pull out your ice picks,” a scientist whispers in the inky twilight. We’re standing on 30 centimeters of ice — a thin veneer that separates us from the deadly Arctic Ocean below — and the ice is trembling. It emits a loud popping sound as a crack starts to spread tens of meters away.
Unsure what the ice will do next, I fumble for my picks, but they’re tucked away in the front pockets of my snowsuit and hidden below my thick life vest. When I finally pull them out, my chest is pounding and my mind is racing as I picture one worst-case scenario after another. Up here, 600 kilometers north of the nearest chunk of land, a dip into water that hovers just above minus 1.8 degrees Celsius does not sound appealing.
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
After a moment, the ice quiets, and we’re left in the stillness of the mid-October dusk. Ian Raphael, a graduate student from Dartmouth College, lets out a deep breath. “That was wild, dynamic and terrifying,” he says with a gleeful, almost childlike smile.
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