Though technically not summer until the June 21 solstice, we have recently had some very nice weather. The days have warmed into the 60's, with lots of sunshine. The lake is really starting to melt, with large portions of open water. Victor, Jeanette and I took a canoe out to explore the lake the other night, literally under the midnight sun. With most of Toolik asleep, it was silent on the lake, except for the sound of chimes made by jostling columns of ice released from the frozen surface. We gently paddled along the ice edge, mesmerized by solitude and by the strange properties of this melting ice. As we sat and contemplated our place and the moment before us, a pair of loons approached. The curious sight of this floating craft must have attracted them, because they swam right up to us. It was a perfect moment. We could barely contain the thrill of seeing these beautiful birds so close and so at ease. It is moments like this that I will never forget. The ice crystals create quite an amazing phenomenon. It seems that when the lake ice melts, it fractures into columnar lengths that run vertically through the 12 inch thick lake ice. As the sun melts the surface of these columns, they are shaped into sharp points on dagger like lengths of ice. They are quite sharp as Victor received some deep cuts when trying to climb onto the ice shelf while swimming in the lake. When the vertically floating columns are disturbed with a paddle, gravity tips them onto their sides. When one tips, it opens space for others to tip, setting off a chain reaction of sorts-almost like dominoes falling over.
Thank you Polartrec teacher Bruce Takerta for this cool time lapse of the non-sunset over Toolik Lake.