Rogue ice clogs Essequibo, Demerara rivers
APRIL 1, 2016 | GEORGETOWN (AP) – Maritime officials in the South American country of Guyana are seeking assistance from the American National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) as engineers and policy makers contemplate options to remove several large chunks of Antarctic ice that have become lodged in this South American country’s major rivers.
The surreal scene of floating ice in an Amazonian river basin is only the latest chapter in a series of unprecedented oceanographic events worthy of a science fiction novel.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Raquel Thomas Caesar, Chief Biologist for the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation. “The effects of climate change were already being felt in our ecosystems. The impact of ice on our neotropical rainforests and rivers is entirely unknown.”
Climatologists and shipping company executives have been tracking a rogue pack of Antarctic icebergs traveling along South America’s east coast since January. Some researchers believe the surviving ice pack is up to ten miles wide and thirty miles long.
The ice cleaved from the Voyeykov Ice Shelf in December and has been pushed northward by abnormal ocean currents along the coastlines of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and now Guyana.
“Using satellite imagery and aerial surveillance we estimate that the ice pack has been moving northward at approximately 15 knots,” said NOAA spokesperson Scott Sullen. “As the pack approaches the equator, it is beginning to disperse rapidly but still poses a major threat to ocean and river vessels.”
Guyanese officials were apparently caught off guard by the arrival of the icebergs this past weekend, believing at first that the huge mounds of blue and white ice were actually sea foam or industrial pollution that had accumulated in the mouth of the Essequibo River.
Local children weren’t so quickly fooled, and by Tuesday morning scores of squealing youth were seen swimming out to one of the smaller floes lodged on a sandbar near the mining town of Bartica. A gentler slope of the iceberg had become an epic ice-slide, launching a steady stream of tiny bodies into the warm Essequibo waters. Wide-eyed parents watched, unbelieving, from the shore.
One enterprising bar in Georgetown wasted no time concocting a fruity rum cocktail shaken with a chunks of iceberg ice, said to be some of the purest water on the planet. “We call it the Ice-aquibo,” said Gavin O’Brien, manager at Cara Lodge Hotel.
Meanwhile, all shipping traffic on the Essequibo and Demerara Rivers was halted in light of both visible and submarine threats to ships and vessels not designed to withstand the impact of marine ice.
In February, the Uruguayan government raised alarms about the hazards posed by the ice pack after several commercial fishing vessels were struck and by house-sized chunks of ice twenty five miles off the coast of Montevideo. At least a dozen fishermen lost their lives in the unexpected late night incident. Several Brazilian leisure craft also fell victim to the unprecedented ice hazard.
A few weeks later conservation officials in Brazil expressed concern that antarctic Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins riding on the icebergs were swimming ashore and disrupting local avian life and sensitive turtle nesting areas. Scantily clad tourists posing with antarctic penguins on some of Brazils’ most famous sunny beaches have become the most widely shared images on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Local animal rights groups expressed concern that penguins were being treated harshly by inebriated beach-goers.
In Georgetown, officials were meeting with mining experts Wednesday to discuss the possibility of using explosives to clear some of the larger icebergs from shipping channels rendered impassible by the frozen obstacles. The Essequibo river is South America’s third largest river and supports a relatively small but important stream of import and export shipping business servicing the country’s mining and timber industries.
Jamaican press falls prey to April 1st Prank
This year’s April Fools edition of the CookUp was our most successful yet, generating nearly 100,000 visits to our website and Facebook page. It was a good laugh to think of Antarctic ice making it nearly to the equator and into interior river ways!
We were especially delighted to see that the Jamaica Observer in Kingston picked up the story as a news item. We hope the editors there have a good sense of humor.
April 1st Classics From Previous Years
Tourists Get Free Bottles of Rum On Guyana Flights
GEORGETOWN – At a press conference this morning, Demerara Distillers Ltd. (DDL) chairman Dr. Yesu Persaud announced that his company will give away free bottles of its flagship 15-year old El Dorado rum to passengers departing on flights from Chedi Jagan International Airport.
Gondola Connects Georgetown to Iwokrama
GEORGETOWN – The world’s longest trans-national tramway opened today in the remote jungle of South America. Operating over an unprecedented length of 186 miles (260 km) between Guyana’s capital city and the Iwokrama rain forest, the tramway offers rare and luxurious glimpse at the rainforest.