First Officer Tremblay’s voice trembles as he delivers the message to Captain Jacob. “Cassandra, the Ross Ice Shelf is collapsing.” He hands her a tablet with the live video feed from Scott Base in Antarctica. Josie appears on-screen.
“Hi mom.” The pale colour on Josie’s face says it all. Summer at the South Pole has been the warmest ever on record, but the shade of her skin at that very moment showed no evidence of it.
“I’m waiting for the helicopters. It’s not good.” Josie reverses the camera and Cassandra witnesses the horrifying beauty through her daughter’s eyes. A 300 km long slice of the Ross Ice Shelf has broken off and is capsizing. Beyond it, you can see the dominoes lining up for their turn. The scene playing out on the 8 inch screen cannot possibly capture the magnitude of the event.
Cassandra grabs the tablet from her first officer. It’s surreal. It looks like a dystopian science fiction movie simulated in a bathtub. If it weren’t for the emotion of Josie’s live voice narrating the catastrophe under way…”her live voice,” mumbles the captain.
A massive wave forms in front of the ice shelf and speeds towards the camera. To the untrained eye there is no reference point for scale but Captain Jacob knows it is well over 10 meters high. Soon the tsunami will hit Ross Island and Scott Base will be wiped clean off the map.
The image flips back to Josie’s face. “I love you, mom.”
Her lips fill the screen. They pull away revealing the tears forming in Josie’s eyes and the tablet becomes a window into the blue fibres of Josie’s sweater. The sound of running and a racing heartbeat is all her mother is left with.
Captain Jacob steadies herself against the railing. Her lips quiver like they used to during last year’s Arctic expeditions, but not for the cold which is dangerously lacking. She races to the bridge, shoves a shocked navigation officer out of the way, and charts a course for Hudson Bay.
“Cut the line. We need to get there yesterday.”
Officer Tay hesitates. Captain Jacob turns to her and yells in her face.
“Do it NOW!!!”
The captain stops herself short of launching a verbal assault on her navigator, and embarrassed by her lack of decorum returns to the helm. Officer Tay realizes something serious and urgent is in progress so she drops her objection and does what she is told. The iceberg they were towing breaks free.
Cassandra’s eyes glaze over as she turns the ship around. The ocean becomes a gigantic mirror reflecting the memories playing in her mind as the past 24 years condense into Josie’s final transmission.
“This can’t be happening,” she tells herself over and over again.
First officer Tremblay enters the bridge and leans against the door. He watches in silence understanding full well what this means for the millions of people around the globe.
Humanity had managed to salvage half of the Arctic ice and melt it as a fresh water source, making water corporations a healthy profit as usual, but that did nothing for the planet. In fact, it made the problem worse as plastic water bottle production skyrocketed, along with CO2 emissions, rising temperatures, and methane seepage from the melting permafrost pushing the temperatures even higher.
There simply was not enough time to mobilize the resources needed to contain the gases bumbling up from the Arctic ocean floor.
And now another race to contain sea level rise was on, but first, the icebreaker must wait it out in the shelter of the bay…
…to be continued in Ross Sea Riches.