email a friend iconprinter friendly iconMelt Zone
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Even during our short expedition, it seems as if we are seeing that effect. In just a week, melting ice has turned our camp into a slushy quagmire. Somewhere in the distance, the meltwater lake has drained into the moulin we had searched for. It's been like witnessing the creation of an ice analogue for Utah's canyonlands, the geologic clock ridiculously sped up. Balog's time-lapse cameras have captured it all. "They're recording the heartbeat of the planet," he says.

Before the expedition departs, Balog persuades me to descend into a moulin right next to camp—one of the largest the EIS team has discovered in its 11 expeditions to Greenland. It is big enough to swallow a freight train—certainly big enough to swallow me. Still, I cannot resist rappelling into the maw of this chasm that Balog has dubbed "the beast."

On rimed ropes, I drop in. A hundred feet down the shaft, walls of blue ice surround me, and I am soaked with frigid spray. The blue Arctic sky above is framed by jagged three-story icicles. Below, vanishing into the abyss, is the thundering waterfall that bored this shaft.

Scientists have dumped yellow rubber duckies, sensored spheres, and huge quantities of dye into moulins, hoping to track their journeys and discover where along Greenland's coast the moulins empty. Some of the spheres and dye have been spotted; all the duckies disappeared. I am tempted to drop deeper, investigate further, but I think again. After 20 minutes hanging by my rope, I climb back out. 

Mark Jenkins wrote about the Tea Horse Road in the May issue. Photographer James Balog is a regular contributor to National Geographic publications.
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