or, Books on iceby skyring
February 3, 2004
Somebody recently asked me what was the most peculiar place I've ever released a book. I've left books in strange places - bagged up and tossed into a midnight lake, on the top of a bushfire-ravaged mountain, a string of Encyclopaedia Britannica volumes
along a bus route, but without a doubt, the oddest place I've released a book was inside the snout of a glacier.
Twenty years ago, my bride and I drove a campervan around New Zealand, having a great time and enjoying the scenery. The rugged West Coast of the South Island was a favorite, one of the highlights being a trek to the Franz Josef Glacier, which descends from the highest mountains in the country down to near sea level.
We parked in an almost deserted car park. The only other occupants being a pair of New Zealand's mountain parrots, the keas noted for playfully stripping every skerrick of rubber from a vehicle. The glacier turned out to be about an hour's walk over a faint path through some of the most lunar terrain I've ever seen. Absolute rubbish land composed of stones and gravel pushed along and dropped by the glacier in ages past, the stream of meltwater twisting and changing the landscape at random.
The actual face of the glacier was a wall of rather dirty ice, with the stream of water coming from an enormous ice cave. We found a safe part, ceremonially touched the ice and made our way back to our vehicle, miraculously unravaged by the huge parrots.
Fast forward twenty years, and now we're on a second honeymoon with a couple of teenagers in the back seat, and a swag of books to release. No way was I going to miss the glacier!
We pulled into our motel, sat drinking tea on the balcony looking up at the high mountains with their eternal coverings of snow and ice, and wondered how much it had changed.
Lots. We made the trip in the evening, but the carpark was crammed full of tourist buses, cars and rows and rows of campervans. The path to the glacier was through the same sort of random rocks, but it was now well marked and maintained, with stairs and bridges at the tricky bits to cater for the stream of visitors.
There was a viewing area set up at a safe distance from the actual snout, but it was possible to go beyond, and so we did, finding that the ice cave had vanished, or at least moved out of sight beyond a jumble of huge ice blocks, but that we could go right up to the face and safely pose for photographs next to a fallen chunk of ice.
And that's where I left the book, sitting on an ice shelf under the shade of the glacier, beneath the soaring rock walls of the valley and the high mountains overhead. A rugged and spectacular place, but far from lonely. The book was securely bagged up, but I didn't think it would last more than a few minutes before another visitor would collect it.
Maybe one did, but like so many others, this book wasn't journalled. Of course, I live in hope, and sometimes releases I've forgotten about for a year or so will suddenly emerge through a journal entry.
Or maybe there was a shift in the ice face, and my book will go into frozen sleep under tonnes of ice, to be discovered in a future millenium.
Here's the entry - http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/1194811
I enjoyed myself by releasing books at other places on that trip: far underground at the Waitomo Caverns; near the geysers at Rotorua; next to the massive earthquake shock absorbers of Te Papa, the New Zealand national museum; on the ferry across to the South Island; high in the mountains at Arthurs Pass; in the chairlift up to the most spectacular restaurant in the world above Queenstown; in the Homer Tunnel in the Fjordland wilderness; on a boat cruising Milford Sound; and at the Royal Albatross colony near Dunedin, where the enormous birds glided overhead like airliners coming in to land for the evening.
But I liked the glacier release best of all!