Dispatches from the End of Ice
Science and storytelling about the search to understand disappearance
The future of the world’s ice is at a critical juncture marked by international debate about climate change and almost daily reports about glaciers and ice shelves breaking, oceans rising, and temperatures spiking across the globe. These changing landscapes are wrought with mystery, and for Beth Peterson it became personal.
A few months after Peterson moved to a tiny village on the edge of Europe’s largest glacier, things began to disappear. The glacier was melting at breakneck pace, and people she knew vanished: her professor went missing while summiting a volcano in Japan, and a friend wandered off a mountain trail in Norway. FinallyPeterson took a harrowing forty-foot fall while ice climbing.
Peterson’s effort to make sense of these losses led to travels across Scandinavia, Italy, England, and back to the United States. She visited a cryonics institute, an ice core lab, a wunderkammer, Wittgenstein’s cabin, and other museums and libraries. She spoke with historians, guides, and scientists in search of answers. Her search for a noted glacier museum in Norway led to news that the renowned building had burned to the ground the night before.
Dispatches from the End of Ice is part science, part lyric essay, and part research reportage—all structured around a series of found artifacts (a map, a museum, an inventory, a book) in an attempt to understand disappearance. It is a brilliant synthesis of science, storytelling, and research in the spirit of essayists like Robert Macfarlane, John McPhee, and Joni Tevis. Peterson’s work orbits the idea of vanishing and the taxonomies of loss both in an unstable world and in our individual lives.
“Following the trails Peterson maps, you don’t so much find your way to and from the northern latitudes as get lost in them along with her—lost in a way that makes you look around in wonderment, gratitude, and grief. ”
— Donovan Hohn, author of Moby Duck
“Her omnivorous curiosity is fascinating.”
— Elizabeth Dodd, author of In the Mind's Eye