Nature Essays

The Refuge

Some people will be fortunate enough to the visit the Arctic National wildlife refuge within their lifetime. This last stand of true wilderness is affectionately called “the refuge” or “ANWR” by some, but others insist that it should be reverently called by its official name. One of our politicians called it the “great white nothing”. I’m sure there was little affection attached to this label. However, if one has ever spent any intimate time in this vast wilderness area, they will discover that it is far from anything that could be called “nothing”.

During the long and dark winter months, the refuge is under a clean white blanket of snow but when the earth tilts towards summer and the days seem to become everlasting, the white blanket is thrown off and the refuge springs to life. Literally everything jumps to life in a frenzy, growing and reproducing in the mad dance of life that must take place in the few summer months of endless daylight. In fact, even before the blanket of snow has completely disappeared the tundra begins to grow under the snow by the penetrating light, slowly preparing for its day of revelry.
Truly the refuge is probably one of the last few places on earth where the human race can witness life unaltered and as it should be.

Photo: Looking for a Crossing.
This is a marshy area of the Sagavanirktok river which is covered in aufeis. Aufeis forms when flowing water backs up under the ice and creates a dam of water that spreads out and freezes around the original area. It will be the last ice to melt through during the summer months and then the area will become a lush green mosquito feasting ground.