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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2001

Glaciers—Things That Go "Bump" in the Night

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Have you ever heard someone remark: "Despise not the day of small beginnings"? When people say that, they simply mean that sometimes very SMALL things can produce very BIG results. For example, if a piece of metal has a tiny, almost invisible crack in it, it can cause an airplane’s engine to fall off. And the Bible tells of a small shepherd (David) who used one little stone to kill a giant (Goliath) who stood 9-feet tall (read 1 Samuel 17:4,49-51).

Today, in parts of the world that are quite cold (like high mountains or polar regions), tiny snowflakes form giant glaciers composed of miles of ice. How is this possible? Whenever so much snow falls in the winter that it cannot melt completely in the summer, it begins to pile up. Eventually it is packed tighter and tighter because air is squeezed out of it (fresh snow is about 90% air). Much of the snow that melts then refreezes as ice, which forms large sheets that actually move (especially down mountainsides) because they are very heavy.

About 99% of the world’s glaciers are in Antarctica and Greenland, but every continent except Australia has glaciers. And although glaciers occupy only 11% of the Earth’s land surface, they contain about 75% of the planet’s fresh water.

Glaciers often produce weird sounds. As layer after layer of snow is compressed, air bubbles get trapped in the ice. When the glacier moves, the bubbles explode, giving the glacier a "snap, crackle, pop" sound like Rice Krispies™ breakfast cereal. At other times as the ice moves, it forms crevasses (cracks) that make a hissing sound as they open. Moulins (moo-lins) are holes that have formed in the glacier, through which water flows with a roaring sound. If you were around a glacier at night, you truly might hear things going "bump" in the night!

Also, glaciers can provide interesting information. Things that were in the atmosphere when the snow fell to form the glacier sometimes get trapped in the air pockets. So when glaciologists (scientists who study glaciers) examine a glacier’s contents, they frequently find such things as pollen and dust that can help them learn about the climate of the past. Who among us could have guessed that when God created tiny snowflakes, the end result would be massive, moving glaciers?

"Despise not the day of small beginnings" is good advice. And it applies to you as well as to glaciers. You may be small now, but one day you will be big, and you will know much more about God, His Word, and His world. That is exactly what articles in Discovery are intended to do—help you learn and grow spiritually. Those of us who write for Discovery never would "despise the day of small beginnings," because we know that from a small beginning, something very important can result. Never forget how important YOU are to God, and how much you can accomplish for Him.

Copyright © 2001 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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