Mathematics and fantasy

Jennifer Kingsley
October 4, 2017

Some types of beauty can only grow in complete stillness. Any turbulence will disturb their symmetry. A breath is too much.

I did not expect to find this perfection here, deep underground in a permafrost cave that preserves one community’s supply of whale and walrus meat. The walls are lined with ice blocks and the ground is soaked with blood. We bend low to navigate the tunnel, which goes much deeper than I expected. Alcoves to store food are spaced along its length. A few light bulbs illuminate the passage.

When my head grazes a rafter and sends crystals raining down in a musical cascade, I stop and study the ice. Hidden in the darkness, the entire roof is covered with the plates, columns, frills, and hexagons of crystals, their shapes determined by temperature and air currents. A world of both mathematics and fantasy.

Blood on the floor and a ceiling too beautiful for words.

Photo by Eric Guth.

Geometric shapes in the ice of a cave that preserves food in Russia.