“One day, a white sheet is draped over the ocean, the next it has burst into a million pieces. A ghost, within a matter of days.” Jack Ryan beautifully weaves history, personal narrative, and science writing in this reported essay for CNET. He comments on our current climate crisis from a front-row seat at the literal edge of the world, hearing melting ice from the continent drip into the sea. It’s not only a contemplative personal piece, but an engaging read about ghost stories, past expeditions, and ecological collapse.

Deeper inland from Casey, the East Antarctic ice sheet rests mostly undisturbed, except for a few international installations. Drip. Locked up within the sheet is “tens of meters” of sea-level rise, according to Matt King, an ice sheet scientist at the University of Tasmania. If the whole thing were to melt, the results would be disastrous. Drip. Some of the world’s most famous cities would drown. Drip. There’s no danger of that happening anytime soon, but the East Antarctic ice sheet has received far less attention than the West. We’re only just beginning to find out how vulnerable it might be. There remain many “unknown unknowns,” King says. Drip. 

As I listen to the steady melt, my mind wanders back to the “This is fine” dog, to the scorched air of a burning country. I pull my hood over my forehead, zip my jacket up over my chin and drift off.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.