The scientists at NEEM could see things in the ice cores, which most often escaped my untrained eye. It was fairly easy to spot "cloudy bands" and "silty ice", but much more difficult to identify the size of crystals and other subtleties. I learned that the size of crystals was related to temperature. Big crystals meant that the ice was getting warmer and we were getting closer to bedrock.
However, I also saw a wide range of different ice formations on more shallow depth in the camp. I consulted with the foremost expert in the physical properties of ice, who told me that the reason why the crystals were so big in the "deep freezer" depended on the temperature and humidity. Then he told me that the reason why snow crystals shapes change so much with temperature remains something of a scientific enigma. He said the physics behind the shapes of ice crystals was complex and not well understood. In fact, we did not understand many of the physical properties of ice. But this kind of "basic science was not sexy enough to fund", he said adding that all funds these days went into climate research: "however, if we don't understand how ice is shaped and how it behaves, then we cannot understand climate...and climate science remains based on proxies." I could see the contours of a different theory of scientific reference than Latour's on the horizon, but that is to be developed elsewhere. The scientist encouraged me to photograph different formations of ice, for as he said "every snow crystal has its own pattern and as an ice physicist, I find that I can address that issue with some confidence." This cluster depicts some of the possibilities.
Read more about the photo series A Cold Northern Light here.