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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth continues its series exploring features of the American landscape. The series is based on the book “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape,” edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, marine biologist Eva Saulitis of Homer, Alaska gives her definition of “anchor ice.”


CURWOOD: Intimacy. It’s an important part of enduring relationships. Intimacy with our home ground—our chosen places and the places we travel through and to—requires us to be on good terms with those landscapes.

For that, we need language—precise, evocative, memorable. To start with, we need to know what things are called. That’s the idea behind the book called “Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape.” Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney asked 45 writers to describe different geological features. This week, marine biologist Eva Saulitis of Homer, Alaska gives her definition of “anchor ice.”

SAULITIS: Anchor ice. Anchor ice forms in fresh water like a second skin over the frozen bottoms of chilled rivers and streams. Cold bottom water slows and then pools behind stones initiating its formation. Eventually the spread of ice may bind rocks, plants, invertebrates and other organisms together in sheets, pinning them to the stream bed. In a similar fashion, anchor ice may coat submerged structures or objects, pier footings or boat anchors in cold motionless water. Anchor ice also forms on the floors of polar seas where it is known as anaglu to the Inupiaq Eskimos. When the mass of this type of anchor ice is sufficient, it will suddenly break loose in jagged fragments and rise to the surface. Exuding its salts diminishes the specific gravity of sea ice. When a section of it grows large enough for the force pushing it toward the surface to overcome the strength of its anchor hold, it rises. In like fashion, when strong currents or storms churn the upper layers of water, the agitation might cause spears and blocks of anchor ice with their load of embedded seaweed, abrasive sand, rocks and shells to break free. Such unexpected surfacings of huge ice chunks can upend, puncture or damage a small boat. Other names include depth, under water and lappered ice.

CURWOOD: Eva Saulitis is a writer, teacher and marine biologist from Homer, Alaska.
Her definition of “anchor ice” appears in the book “Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape,” edited by Barry Lopez and Deborah Gwartney.



For more on the book “Home Ground”


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