Thursday, March 03, 2005


We had another snowstorm last week and I was thinking how much I love snow. Yes, I know that it really causes problems for people. There's the people with children who have to find childcare when the schools are closed. Snow causes traffic snarls, especially in this metropolitan area,but it is also a miracle of wonders, a science and an art.

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley also loved snow. He wanted to find out if the old adage about no two snowflakes being alike was true. In 1880 on his farm in Jericho, Vermont, he started collecting and photographing snowflakes. He used a box camera, a microscope and black and white film. He photographed snowflakes over 46 winters and published his images in a book entitled Snow Crystals. It was published in 1931. The book was deemed to have little scientific value because Bentley sometimes edited the photographic images, but he never did find two snowflakes that were alike.

The Snowflake Bentley site has links for the Snowflake Bentley Museum and a Gift Shop . Every year the Jericho (Vermont) Historical Society puts out a snowflake ornament. The ornaments designs are taken from the original snow crystal photomicrographs taken by Bentley.

It appears that the old tale of the Inuit having 100 words for snow is a bit of an urban legend. Or is it. Bill Bryson, author of Mother Tongue indicates that the Inuit do indeed have fifty words for different types of snow.

Here are a few: annui-falling snow,api-snow not yet driven by wind,natatgonaq-snow surface of rough particles,qali-snow that sticks to tree branches as it falls and upsik-snow altered by the wind into hard mass.
Here is a more extensive list and also some of the scuttlebutt about this claim. Actually when I searched Google using the search terms"Inuit words for snow" I came up with 640 hits. Seems like I'm not the only one wondering about this old tale.

My love for snow and cold weather has also segued into my choice of mysteries to read. Many years ago I got addicted to the Dana Stabenow series that takes place in Alaska. I've read all of her Kate Shugak and Liam Campbell books. Reading these books lead me to more cold-weather authors such as Sue Henry, Kerstin Ekman, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo,Christopher Lane and Megan Mallory Rust.

If you are one of those who don't like snow why not the next time it snows take a few minutes, bundle up and go outside on a moonlit night. Take a loved one. Go for a walk and stand still for just a moment. Ahhh, Pure magic.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Herodotus (484 BCE-430 BCE), Inscription, New York Post Office adapted from Herodotus.

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