Thursday 27 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 292

This week's picture prompt is by Colbriere A., Hong Kong, Thailand based photographer. This picture is taken at Lake Baikal, Russia back in 2015. They take amazing photos, and especially on their Facebook page which is more up-to-date with pictures. Loads of inspiration. 

A bit of a climate dystopian tale this week. 

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Looking through a gap between chunks of broken ice and icicles from above, at an ocean with the sun setting over up, and the light giving the ice an orange glow. Picture taken on Lake Baikal in Russia, by Colbriere A.


I cracked an eye open once I registered the sound I was hearing. It was water … moving water; sloshing, splashing, moving around. It had been a long time since I’d heard that sound outside of a pan over a fire.

Bright sunlight glowed through the ice and I shuffled myself closer to the opening of the cave to get a better view. A lake. I could see, a lake.

I pulled a hand out of my sleeping bag to move hair out of my eyes. I had to be seeing things. But no, it was still there, a huge expanse of water – wet, running water. But how?

And then I felt it, on my skin, the sun and the heat of it. I hadn’t felt heat from the sun in over a decade. No one had.

Could it be true? Was it over?

Then I heard other sounds, people sounds, they were waking up all along the shore. There was laughter and high fiving. I fought my way out of my sleeping bag to join them.

“What the fuck?! I thought I was seeing things,” I called over to Jesse.

“I know, mate, it’s unbelievable. No more melting ice over a fire. And soon we should see some greenage.”

“Yeah but it won’t be green.”

“It won’t take long,” Maddie reassured me. “Not with these temps, this is incredible.”

“The ice age is over!” The very words seemed incredible as I said them.

“You might be being a bit hasty there mate,” Marcus didn’t want me to get carried away. “Melting the surface of the water doesn’t mean it will stay this way for long. It is mid-July by the old calendars, the peak of summer, and we aren’t seeing that kind of melt on anything else.” He pointed towards the shoreline, and my eyes followed the arc as I looked at the solid ice still up there. There wasn’t any dripping or rivulets of water.

“Don’t dampen his enthusiasm, Markus.” Maddie defended my excitement. “This is huge! Even if it is only brief, it’s a beginning.”

“Yeah, but are we high up shore enough? Will the water rise? Otherwise we’ll need to find somewhere else to settle.” Marcus wasn’t going to be persuaded not to worry.

“Not just the water rising. If the caves melt we will need to find new homes. These were only caused by the development of the glacier when we were plunged into this. If there is indeed a melt going on, we are going to need to find higher ground.” Brady had always been the pragmatic one.

“Can we all just take a breath, and enjoy this historical moment for a second?” Halle called over the noise.

We all quieted. She was our leader. She kept us all on an even keel, and that wasn’t easy. We were all scientists with different specialities and liked to express our opinions about everything. We’d been thrown together as it seemed only those that knew how to survive an ice age actually could survive one.

“The lake has begun to thaw, as we can all see. This could well mark the beginning of the end of this stage of the ice age, or at least a shift in temperatures. But this is not just a result of the air temperature shifting a couple of degrees – it hasn’t risen enough to do more than create a thin layer of water on top, at most, which would quickly freeze again at sunset. I believe a warm current has come in from somewhere, and being that this is a land-locked lake, it concerns me what that might be. Plus the speed of the thaw; the ice was solid all day yesterday, no significant change. This lake is over 300 miles long, what could thaw it so quickly, and overnight too?”

We all paused, our minds racing as we looked at each other.

“I can only imagine there’s a vent of some sort causing a warm or even hot current,” Jordan offered.

I baulked. “You mean, seismic activity? We didn’t feel anything.”

“It might not be in this lake. It could have happened elsewhere and the warm or even hot water began flowing in and out from tributary rivers.”

“We need to science the shit out of this,” Parker stated. He liked the hustle of the team working together – in fact we all did, which is why we had come together. And he was right. We needed to get moving and start running tests. Days were short when you had a lot to do.

I rushed back to my cave to get my equipment. It felt good to finally have a purpose again, one that ended with hope.

1 comment :

  1. Wilkins pushed his hood away from his face and took a deep breath. “It’s still cold, Sir,” he said. “But warming fast. I’d recommend we begin phase two. Get it done and get out. And then maybe home again soon?”

    I nodded, although I’d be skipping the customary homecoming party this time. Our passenger would require my attention. I’d be working through the night and into the next day, monitoring the instrument package we’d attached to him. And after that, I had no idea what I’d be doing. It depended on Frosty and how well he responded to us disturbing him.

    The weather beyond the cave mouth was typical for late March – a severe blizzard, blotting out the stars and what little light the moon’s crescent would have given us. Inside, in our meagre shelter, we had the steady illumination of the instruments and the three glow globes we’d attached to the rock ceiling, providing enough light to work without giving our position away.

    Phase two. Time to finally free the sleeper from his resting place.

    Tunguska Artefact #973 – we’d named him Frosty – looked peaceful, his face like a grey marble carving, untroubled by our efforts to remove him. We’d begun our sawing out wide from his body and gradually moved in closer, shearing off the ice in blocks and then slivers until we’d determined his full shape, not wanting to damage him any more than was necessary.

    He was probably dead, but we remained hopeful. There was no knowing the limits of the Visitor’s physiology to endure what had happened to him.

    It happened on June 30th, 1908, in Eastern Siberia. A meteorite had entered the atmosphere, fallen most of the way to the ground and then exploded, devastating more than 800 square miles of forest, flattening trees, and destroying everything within the area. There were no witnesses to what would eventually be called the Tunguska Event, although a number of people disappeared that night, presumably vaporised by the firestorm or eaten by the animals that found their bodies. There was little evidence to support any theories about what happened, and its geographical location and the insular attitude of the Russian government made recovering any materials that resulted from the incident generally impossible. It’s only within the last few decades that the enmities between the world’s superpowers have eased enough for proper investigations to be made and for teams of researchers from the rest of the world to be invited into the region.

    But an invitation isn’t necessarily a welcome. Old habits die hard in the more remote reaches of any country. We’d already experienced distrust and outright hostility from the few locals we’d encountered and a stubborn refusal from the regional government to support or even acknowledge our right to be here and to conduct our research activities. ‘If it was meant to be known, we would have found it already, ‘the governor had said, his attitude remaining icy despite our best efforts to earn his favour. He’d accepted our gifts but given nothing back and we’d been forced to work around him, hoping he'd be similarly slow in moving to eject us when he heard we’d ignored his refusal.