Written & Photos by (作者, 图片来源): Yuki Hu?胡佳瑜

This summer I went to Alaska with eight fellow students and two professors from Middlebury College. We were there to document and trace the streams two local fish, the Dolly Varden and Arctic Char, call home. Feeling the swiftness of the running on my legs in the Matanuska River and fishing in the mountain streams was an experience. What surprised me most, though, was a trip to Matanuska Glacier and the color of the ice and water that flowed from it.

I cannot remember how many times I ?repeated this conversation with my Middlebury friends at the beginning of school:

“So where are you from?”
“Which part of China?”
“The East coast of China, which is pretty close to the ocean”
“Wow, I am so jealous that you have the ocean and beaches!”

Yes, I do live on the coast of the East China Sea, but the beaches we have don’t have crisp blue water or sand like the Bahamas. Instead, the water is a sandy yellow mixed with gray silt and saturated with gloominess. When the tides roll in, the ocean water merges with the gravel and dirt to become brownish yellow, no clean crisp water here.

Alaska is different, the waters here are pristine and blue. I was surprised to find, though, that the river water and water from the streams had a grayish tint to it. Although the class taught about other aspects of environmentalism, I was more drawn to the color of the water than anything.

During our second weekend in Anchorage, we floated along the Matanuska River and, after setting up camp along the bank, went to hike the Matanuska Glacier.? Approaching the glacier, we had to go through a field of mud deposited from the melted sand and gravel once trapped in the glacier. Walking closer to the glacier, our eyes were blinded by the almost crystal white face. A thin layer of mud caked the glacier in the crevices that covered it. Some were small and some were unfathomably deep.

What amazed me most about Matanuska Glacier as we approached its main section was how the colors transitioned smoothly from snow white to thousands of shades of blue. Unlike the dark blue of the ocean, which is too dense, the diamond blue of the glacier seems like it is frozen in time, maintaining its charm throughout the eons. According to the Alaska Satellite Facility, glacier ice is blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Sometimes the glacial ice appears almost turquoise. It’s crystalline structure strongly scatters blue light. The ice on a glacier may have been there for centuries, compacted down so that it’s structure is more complex than normal ice.

Floating down the Matanuska River once again, I noticed the turbid water from the glacier carries tons of gravel and mud. These turn the river’s color to an unpleasant light grey. The opaque color of the water disguises the world beneath the surface. How is it possible that such muddy water originates from a crystal blue glacier? The answer from the Alaska Satellite Facility is that glaciers move through rock and soil as they carve their way down a slope. Thus, the ice picks up a lot more ingredients than just water. Although the color of the Matanuska River gave me an unpleasant first impression, what about the water back home in Ningbo? Why is this muddy?

According to Xiao Hua Wang, Houjie Wang, Weibing Guan and Zhigang Guo’s “Dynamics of Chinese Muddy Coasts and Estuaries”, the main? reason for the muddy coast is that Zhejiang lies south of the Yangtze River estuary. It connects to the continental shelf at the water depth of 50–60?m. The Yellow Sea and the East China Sea receive 0.2?×?1010?t/a sediments supplied mainly by the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the erosion of the old Yellow River mouth.

Interestingly, the same principle of refraction that applies to the glacier applies to the East China Sea. Numerous large sized grains and lack of depth make it incapable of absorbing red, yellow and orange, the reason for which the water is sandy yellow.

Although water pollution still plays a role in the color of the East China Sea, I now realize there is more than meets the eye. Instead of thinking about the pollution, I remember the shrill sirens, seagulls crowing, and ocean breeze carrying a familiar salty smell and diesel fumes. Even though the latter is bad, it is still deep in my memories of an ocean I have grown to respect more and more.

Regardless of the forms or colors of the water in Alaska or in Ningbo, there is always something more beyond its color. There is nothing like the water that could tie me to a city emotionally. As a city highly depends on its water and fish, Alaska is just like my city across the Pacific Ocean, growing up and thriving with the water.




的确,我的城市很靠近东海。可惜的是我们既没有像巴哈马天堂岛那般湛蓝的海水, 也没有加州沿海绵软细腻的沙滩。但是在我的记忆中, 多种不同的水源流经我的城市。宁波与水有不解之缘,他们一同成长,一同兴盛。

宁波港作为拥有世界最大集装箱吞吐量的港口,我总是惊叹它的宏伟。成千上万各色集装箱齐整地码在港口, 就像无数的巨型的乐高积木。远洋巨轮停泊在港口随时待命将中国制造运输往世界各地。 然而,海水在我目光所及之处都是土黄色的。不是亮黄色或奶黄色,而是混着沙土的,令人抑郁的土黄色。小时候,我乐于在布满气孔的沙滩上追逐住在里边的小螃蟹,但是沙子里混着砾石和碎贝壳, 我很少敢赤着脚在沙滩上跑。当潮水上涨,土黄色的海水和棕黄的沙粒融为一色,难舍难分。小时候,每当在电视节目上看到湛蓝的海水总是会想那是海应当该有的颜色吗?为什么我的海水没有那么蓝?当我站在阿拉斯加玛塔努斯卡的江畔,望着混沌的江水滚滚西去。那小时候的困惑再次浮上心头。



当我们快到达冰川主体时,阳光终于穿破云层,每一寸土地都沐浴在阳光中。终于,玛塔努斯卡冰川揭开了它神秘的面纱。我惊叹于眼前层次丰富的色彩,那雪似的白过度到钻石般的蓝,似乎有上千种的色调夹杂其中。然而,雪白却不够贴切。那冰川迷人的色彩归因于那白参杂着若有若无的蓝。我喜欢那冰川独有的各种色度的蓝。不像那深不见底的海,墨蓝墨蓝,蓝的让人喘不过气儿。玛塔努斯卡冰川独有的钻石般的蓝就像被时间凝固住,永恒在那儿,美得令人窒息。我不禁细想那冰川是由皑皑白雪层层覆盖积压而成,那醉人的蓝色从何而来?Alaska Satellite Facility网站上如是说:冰川之所以那么蓝是因为它从光谱中吸收了除了蓝色以外所有颜色。有时候甚至会接近于绿松石色,因为它的晶体结构强烈得折射了蓝光。积雪成年累月得堆积使得其结构本质上发生变化,所以不同于普通的冰块。
然而当我们漂流在由玛塔努斯卡冰川融化而成的玛塔努斯卡江时,那浑浊的江水携着大量的沙土奔腾不息。那沙土和泥使得那江水呈现出令人不悦的浅灰色。那混沌且不透明的灰色令人看不见江面以下的世界,给玛塔努斯卡江带上了点神秘的色彩。巨大的浪时不时灌入充气伐,即使我们全副武装得穿着防水的装备,江水还是从领口到胶靴打湿全身, 以至于晚上做梦也做到泛滥的洪水。

但是我想到那壮丽的玛塔努斯卡冰川, 这浑浊的带满泥浆的江水怎会是从那晶莹的冰川融下来的呢?从Alaska Satellite Facility 得到的说法是冰川在板块移动俯冲形成山坡时经过巨石和泥土而成。也就是说冰川的成分不仅仅是水,而是由更复杂的各种成分构成。浑浊的灰色是玛塔努斯卡江的江水给我留下的第一印象,然而我发现除了表象外还有更深层的东西值得发掘。这使我联想到了家乡的海水。

据Dynamics of Chinese Muddy Coasts and Estuaries书中所述,主要原因是因为浙江海岸位于长江的江口,连接了水深约50-60米的大陆架。黄海和东海每年有0.2?×?1010?顿的沉积物,主要来自长江,黄河,和被侵蚀的黄河口。有意思的是,冰川的光学折射原理同样解释了东海近海处土黄色的海水。深海处随着水深和纯净度的提高,海水吸收波长较长的红光,橙光,和黄光的能力,和折射波长较短的蓝光,紫光能力大大加强,所以人眼接收到的是折射的深蓝色。至于东海近海处的海水, 因携带折大量沙粒而且水深较浅, 吸收的红光,橙光,和黄光的能力较弱,所以我们看到的多是土黄色的海水。



Yuki Bio Image

Yuki Hu

is a Ningbo native who is currently studying Architectural Design and Japanese at Middlebury College in Vermont, USA.