A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow

Marlene Creates


Since 2011, Marlene Creates has been observing and photographing winter’s phenomena by means of over 80 named varieties of ice, snow, and winter weather in the Newfoundland dialect. Examples include ballicattered (covered with a layer of ice from spray or waves), clinkerbells (icicles), ice-blink (the dazzle of the ice), and devil’s blanket (a snowfall that hinders your usual work). These terms are precise, practical, evocative, sonic, and lyrical. Two videos shown alongside the photographs include an award-winning documentary video-poem based on the Blast Hole Pond River, and a real-time, single take of sea ice in Conception Bay in 2014 when it was so cold that the bay froze for the first time in decades.

“Treasury” is used in the title to describe a collection of highly valued poetic terms. Several are from 17th-century English, brought to Newfoundland with the settlers; others arose from occupational activities in this climate. But they’re now fragile intangible artifacts. Major changes, particularly the decline of the fishery, have resulted in a loss of local linguistic complexity. And these terms are fragile for another reason—climate change.

With special thanks to the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council and The Canada Council for the Arts.