inuvik by accident + ice lens dreaming

Tomorrow, I head to Tuktoyaktuk on the Mackenzie Ice Road. But I’ve been in Inuvik by accident since yesterday. How? The flight from Whitehorse to Dawson couldn’t land due to fog, and I had the choice of flying back to Whitehorse, or staying in Inuvik overnight.

Strangely enough, my boyfriend and another friend and I were scheduled to drive to Inuvik today – our first leg of the trip to Tuk. The thought of spending awhole day on the plane, and then 12 hours in a vehicle, after 5 days of Christmas feasting and non-exercise – well, it made all my muscles cringe. So I stayed here in Inuvik, and spent today’s brief 4 hours of pink- and lavendar-tinged daylight exploring the town.

It’s exciting to think we’ll be driving on the Mackenzie Ice Road tomorrow! However, conversations with store clerks seem to flag an uncomfortable day ahead. One woman said she drove on the ice road to Aklavik for Christmas, and it’s “like a washboard” right now. Another clerk said “the road’s always rough when it’s new – it doesn’t become smooth until around February when the ice truckers start to use it.” Erg. We might have headaches by the time we arrive in Tuk. But I’m still psyched to see the wide open ice, and the ice-hearted pingos.

This unexpected layover is also a timely gift: here is a handful of extra hours to draw and think about the ice art I want to make in Tuk. I’m full of fascinated anticipation about how the broad ice horizon, the bumpy pingos and the pink light will look. So the ice art project is about seeing, too – I’m going to make a pair of stenopeic glasses. Or at least try.

Stenopeic glasses, also known as “pinhole glasses,” are glasses that enhance vision for distance and clarity, though with some dimness added, which might be tricky in the low light of the Arctic winter. I’ll experiment with making a large pair out of ice and see if that expands the distance I can see along the Beaufort Sea horizon.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of these eye-teasers:

Stenopeic glasses are eyeglasses with a series of pinhole-sized perforations filling an opaque sheet of plastic in place of each lens. Similar to the workings of a pinhole camera, each perforation allows only a very narrow beam of light to enter the eye which reduces the size of the circle of confusion on the retina and increases depth of field. In eyes with refractive error, the result is often a clearer image. Unlike conventional prescription glasses, pinhole glasses produce a clear image without the pincushion effect around the edges (which makes straight lines appear curved).

… It should also be noted that pinhole glasses reduce brightness and peripheral vision, and thus should not be used for driving or when operating machinery.

In preparation for this, I’ve filled 3 small balloons with water to test how long they’ll take to freeze. It’s minus 30 C right now; they should form a good shell in about two hours and then I can pour out their insides and have rounded ice lenses to play with.

Unfortunately the pay-per-minute computer at the hotel doesn’t allow pictures to be downloaded from camera or even directly uploaded to WordPress (?), so I’ll insert a snapshot of them after we’re back in Dawson.

Update Jan 1 in Tuk:

Here are a couple of photos from those first ice-globe tests. On this small scale, ice would not be dense enough to block out light, so the stenopeic glasses (or other framework for a person to look through) would have to be made opaque either through thickness or by adding paper/foil/pigment.

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