Earlier this year, I was able to take a Natural Habitat Adventures cruise to Antarctica, satisfying my annual yearning for big ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

I have a fixation with ice and the world’s cold places. I think it’s mostly because I’m convinced that winter is an endangered “species.” That’s why the poles have always called to me. Science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson wrote in his 1997 book, Antarctica: “There was something about [the continent] that fueled obsessions, that created all manner of idées fixes which then took over whole careers and lives. The ice blink, some called it.”

I try to satisfy my craving with a trip to an icy place once a year; and January 2014, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Antarctica for the first time. Antarctica and Greenland are home to the two largest ice sheets in the world; and I have now visited both of them. But things are changing, and they’re changing fast. My endangered species hypothesis could become more than just personal conjecture. A new report, published in the online magazine The Cryosphere, states that both places are contributing to a rise in sea level twice as much as they were just five years ago. And the ice sheets are thinning at the highest speed observed since measurements began in 1994.

The report is based on data recently gathered from more than 200 million elevation points in Antarctica and 14.3 million in Greenland that track the loss of ice mass. Current statistics were then compared with figures from 2009. Results showed that the volume of ice loss in Greenland has doubled in those five years, and the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has increased by a factor of three.

A bit of good news is that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is gaining mass. Unfortunately, that growth doesn’t make up for the loss of ice in West Antarctica and Greenland. And, the ice of East Antarctica has a problem of its own: on May 4, 2014, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reported that an “ice plug”—a small rim of ice resting on bedrock below sea level, which currently holds back the ice behind it—might melt away in coming centuries if ocean waters warm. The institute also predicts that by 2100, ice melt from Antarctica alone could add more than 14 inches to global sea levels.

So, I remain enamored of the Earth’s quickly disappearing ice. I hope, after seeing the photos below, you catch the ice blink, too.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,


Everyone imagines Antarctica as the place of titanic icebergs—and it is. Unfortunately, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now quickly losing mass. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


For most who catch the “ice blink,” being able to set foot on the White Continent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


The mountains on the Antarctic Peninsula are thought to be a continuation of the Andes of South America. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Named for their spotted coats, leopard seas are one of the primary predators in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. They eat penguins, seabirds, fish and smaller seals. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Antarctica has no permanent human residents. Pictured here is a research station that is unoccupied at the moment. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


Gentoos are the penguin world’s third largest species. They populate the Antarctic Peninsula and numerous islands around the cold continent. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


A Gentoo penguin’s flamboyant, red-orange beak stands out against its gray, rock-strewn habitat. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 provides protection for the species. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


You can find almost every shade of gray and blue in Antarctica. I’m already dreaming of going back to this place of elemental beauty. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


A seal enjoys a respite on a bed of kelp on the shore of ice-free Barrientos Island, located on the west side of the English Strait in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


The Antarctic Peninsula’s bays and coves can be calm and peaceful. It’s unusual to be able to experience what a world without people sounds like. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews


The blue icebergs you encounter near the fringe of the continent make any visit to Antarctica unforgettable. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews