winter

Posted by Ellen

In the wintertime, Franklin Falls, in the Cascade Mountains about 60 miles east of Seattle, takes on a dual personality.

The main cataract at the center of the waterfall flows too fast and furious to freeze up tight; it roars and splashes and spits spray all winter long.

But closer to the edge, the waterfall's trickles and drips crystallize as icicles, which pile up through the winter months into layercakes of glittery, frothy ice. And this year, by mid-December, the ice at Franklin Falls was ready to be climbed.

Our man of the mountains, Hank, showed up there then with his buddies and their gear: ropes, crampons, ice axes, and optimism. They were climbers who knew their way around in the mountains, who'd put in their time conquering knife-edged ridges and post-vertical cliffs and glaciers and whiteouts and whatnot. 

None of them, as it turns out, had actually climbed a frozen waterfall before. But they must have seen it done on YouTube. They were pretty sure they would be able to figure it out.

And they did. We heard that it was a little bit scary but pretty fun, actually.

Posted by Ellen

On the afternoon of March 7, 2009,  the ice went out on the White River in South Royalton, Vermont. For hours, the river roared and groaned, as its thick cover of winter ice was ground to bits by rampaging ice chunks from miles upstream. By the next morning, the river ran free, except along the banks, where rocks and logs had snagged some of the frozen slabs and beached them on dry land. Over the next few weeks, the jumble of beached ice melted very slowly, and then it was really spring.

Posted by Ellen

Downtown Seattle in the wintertime, as seen from the ferris wheel on the waterfront.

Posted by Ellen

In the winter of 2004, at the winter carnival in Québec City, eleven-year-old Hank met his doppelganger, the festival's mascot, Le Bonhomme. And Le Bonhomme met a little mascot of his own in smiling Hank.

Posted by Ellen

This sign is posted on a fence at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Long Island, where Norman lived in the 1950s, when he was a little boy.

He swears there was no such sign back then, which is probably lucky for him. Of course, he was going to run away and join the circus–he did see the movie Toby Tyler. But even as a child he suspected that he wasn't the daring kind who would fly through the air with the greatest of ease–and worse, he suspected that some of his friends probably were that daring kind, and so there would be peer pressure, and he'd feel like he had to try flying through the air, with the greatest unease.

It just could be that life's gotten a bit tougher for some of the young people growing up these days in East Meadow.

Posted by Ellen

Presidents' Day has already come and gone, and they still haven't taken down the Valentine's decorations.

Posted by Ellen

Gravitational waves–the warping of spacetime predicted by Einstein and confirmed the other day by a bunch of astrophysicists–may account for this awesome icicle hanging from a porch roof near Winthrop, Washington.

The way we understand it, which is undoubtedly not correct, the physicists measured data regarding a collision between two black holes and detected gravitational waves propagating outward from the event, kinda like sound waves rippling out from the ringing of the cosmic spacetime bell.

So. Obviously, this here icicle got caught up in some serious gravitational ripples. That, or the snow on the roof was seriously sliding and slumping and refreezing as the icicle was drippily trying to grow (see below). Hope the astrophysicists have ruled out that possible source of noise in their data.

Posted by Ellen

The 170th birthday of Claude Monet in November 2011 was marked by, among other festivities, a Photoshop competition sponsored by FreakingNews.com. The challenge was to Photoshop a composite image introducing modern elements into a Monet painting.

The winning entry, shown above, was submitted by somebody who logged into the competition as azwoodbox. That's a train à grande vitesse, imitating Monet's 1875 train below.

Posted by Ellen

Ten or so days ago, when Philly got whacked by a pretty good thump of snow, this guy was the only one out driving around in the neighborhood, until he wasn't.

He was going the wrong way up 24th Street–and really, why not? There were no other cars on the road. But he slipped and slid, and then he was digging and digging. . . .

One of the neighbors brought him some cardboard, which was eventually helpful, but nobody offered to help him shovel, which might have made a more immediate contribution. (In our own defense, it is noted here that ever since last August, when we moved into an apartment, we no longer own a snow shovel.)

It's warmed up now and rained, and the snow is disappearing. Maybe this next month will bring us more winter, but maybe not.

Posted by Ellen

A surprise autumn cold snap attacked New Zealand's South Island this week, with deep snow burying the mountains and lighter snowfalls covering the ground at elevations as low as 100 meters above sea level. This scene was on the road between Mossburn and Te Anau, near New Zealand's southwestern coast.

According to MetService meteorologist Richard Finnie, the wintry storm was like a bit of June in April: "It's not an early winter," he said, "just an early taste of winter." The cold front was expected to sweep northward across the country and then give way to more normal fall conditions within a few days.