A Farewell to Ice

Post by Sue Lewis

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic, by Peter Wadhams, 1st pub. 2016, Penguin 2017

This 200-page informative and illustrated paperback, explaining why Arctic sea ice is retreating much more rapidly than most climate models have projected, and why this has serious implications for climate change and the survival of our planet, came my way because my half-brother, Edward Lyn Lewis (1930-2012), was an expert in sea ice during the latter part of the 20th century and is listed among the ‘old Arctic friends’ remembered on the dedication page. During 1974-5, Peter Wadhams was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Victoria, BC, Canada, where Lyn was based, and they worked together on the Beaufort Sea Project, where oil had been discovered under the ice. Peter remarks that, while working on the 2014 US report on how to deal with oil spills, ‘we found to our amazement that the 1974-6 Canadian project was still the best source of data’ (p. 100). Lyn’s report is available online.

Both men were aware of the impact of melting sea ice on climate change by the late 1970s, and it was a pity they were unable to renew their fruitful collaboration a decade later, when Lyn had a fellowship at Churchill College Cambridge, from 1986-7. For much of that time, Peter was away from the Scott Polar Institute on a project with the Royal Navy and, sadly, their planned book on sea ice and the greenhouse effect was never written.

Lyn was born on 9 October 1930, at 3.00am, in Aberystwyth, and I have included his Age Progression chart for 9 April 1987, which shows the Natal and Nodal Age Points moving towards their 2nd Crossing Point two years later, anticipating a less active and more family-oriented retirement. Neptune was also transiting over his natal Saturn and it was during this period that he suffered the first of many debilitating illnesses that would dog his later years. Lyn’s 1st Crossing Point, on 12 April 1953, marked the beginning of his serious engagement with microwave technology and Arctic exploration. By the late 1950s, he had become a meticulous expert in planning and leading expeditions to the North and gathering data. In 1959, he moved to Canada to further his career. From what I know of my brother, it seems likely that this talented and complex man with a spark of genius had a distinct preference for fieldwork and discussion over academic research and writing and, in 1987, he needed the drive of his younger colleague to get the proposed book off the ground. Besides, he was a pessimist, who thought no one would act on his dire warnings, an opinion endorsed by Wadhams with reference to the latter decades of the 20th century: ‘The world needed to be warned, and we did our best to warn it. But not only did the politicians and industrialists not want to know, neither did the scientific modellers’ (p. 70).

Peter Wadhams was born on 14 May 1948 (time and place unknown, so I have not included his chart). His natal chart has a dynamic learning triangle of Sun in Taurus, Mars in Leo, and Jupiter in Sagittarius, with Mars at the critical red/blue angle, and Jupiter in opposition to Uranus in Gemini forming an irritation triangle with Sun. The North Node is also in Taurus, and the Nodal axis squares Saturn/Pluto in Leo. He has made extremely good use of his time since retirement from the post of Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge, in 2015, by writing an interesting and hard-hitting book. In this excellent little volume, he explains to the uninitiated why Arctic sea ice is melting, why it matters, and what governments should be doing right now. He tells the story of evolving ocean science from crude reports by seal traders and whalers to satellite observation, includes a couple of personal anecdotes that make us aware of the importance of safety on ships and submarines, and uncovers the underhand methods used by climate change sceptics to derail the good intentions of both politicians and scientists. Although, with my limited scientific background, I found the early chapters difficult to get into, all the definitions of unfamiliar terms are there. This is a book that needed to be written and that needs to be read, and I applaud Peter Wadhams for his courage, as well as his skill in putting out the facts, and let’s hope that the signatories of the Paris Agreement (2015) actually move beyond good intentions to take some action.

Featured image from the Guardian website.