An elegy for Antarctica’s Larsen C, the 10,000-year-old ice shelf that’s about to break away

An humongous crack.
An humongous crack.
Image: NASA
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Antarctica is about to lose a lot of ice. Scientists report that Larsen C—an ice shelf the size of Delaware—is close to splitting off from the rest of Antarctica, with its rift having grown by 20 km (12.5 miles) in December alone. Here’s an elegy to an ice shelf that held strong for more than 10,000 years—and a call to action for the rest of us.

The shelves stayed nameless
for 10,000 years.
Then came Captain Larsen
to name the crystal frontier.

Now comes the deep rift,
the long, low rumble of calving.
Imagine if it were Belgium or Delaware,
not the berg we see halving.

First to go was Larsen A, then B and C,
and many a glacier.
Still here are tiny D, E, F, and G—
how long before they meet their maker?

Penguins watch the cracks grow;
so do our eyes in the sky.
A natural monument lost;
do humans have an alibi?

With every Larsen floe that goes
we lose a landscape majestic and inspiring.
We’re left with rising seas,
women going hungry, and islands drowning.

Can’t ignore it for much longer;
the only way out is global unity.
But even as the evidence grows—
to the White House comes a climate-denier trinity.