Mystic crystal : Photo essay captures the art of ice

November 3, 2012 

October was too good to last. Sure, it was cold, a little colder than usual. What do you expect? It's Alaska.

But, to borrow a phrase from our friends in Arizona, it was a dry cold, at least after the middle of the month when clear, sunny days followed clear, chilly nights and decorated the city with the miracle of ice.

The Anchorage Fire Department had to warn people against the temptation of heading onto creeks and lakes; they cautioned that the freeze-over might be dangerously thin in many places. But the bold were not to be deterred. I watched one skater glide across the sloughs that lace the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and others navigate Potter Marsh.

Shady spots on roads and walkways could be slippery, surprising those who had become lulled by the mostly dry surfaces and great traction.

Ice was in the air, so to speak, at home and abroad. Friends in Bethel were making plans for ice fishing. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., reported that in September ice on the Arctic Ocean fell to the lowest extent in the years that they've been tracking it. At the same time the extent of Antarctic sea ice reached all time record highs. Go figure.

While some of us talked about it, watched out for it, or recreated with it, Daily News photographer Bob Hallinen was busy capturing images of the mysteriously fascinating designs painted in ice by the forces of gravity, currents, wind, sun and air bubbles trapped beneath the glassy surface. Some looked as if Mother Nature herself had taken a paintbrush and let her imagination run wild.

Snow earlier this week covered the crystalline wonders and ushered in a different kind of magic. With the end of daylight saving time today (you did set your clocks back, right?) we must accept that the real winter -- not a shoulder season -- is here.

But before the memory fades, enjoy this portfolio of some of the more curious, elegant and beautiful pieces from the October collection.

-- Mike Dunham, Daily News arts editor

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