From an article from NY Times

......but as Mr. Lang took me on the Téléphérique for the first time, it became clear this mountain was unlike any I’d ever seen. A foot of new snow had fallen the night before, and spindrift whipped off La Meije, a sea of icy blue glaciers pocked by crevasses and cliffs unfurling down its flanks.

I couldn't figure out what to understand from this statement: spindrift whipped off La Meije what does spindrift do to La Meije? Or is it the spindrift that's the subject?

And my other question is how should I understand ...unfurling down its flanks? What I understand is a sea of icy blue glaciers pocked by crevasses and cliffs are presenting their entity on La Meije's flank's downside. but I'm not sure.

2 Answers 2


Spindrift refers to snow being blown, in this case off the mountain (see the second entry). "Whipped" here is being used in the intransitive sense of "The wind whipped." Spindrift is the subject, but there's no direct object.

Unfurling here is a poetic way of saying "extending" or "spreading."

Flanks means "sides", so put together it means: the glaciers are extending down the sides of the mountain.

  • I'm sorry but I still can't understand "spindrift whipped off La Meije". from your explanation I think this sentence means " spindrift whipped something off LA Meije". And I'm not sure. If not then how come spindrift is the subject of the sentence? Thank you.
    – Ally Fe
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 9:02
  • Here is a link to a longer primer on intransitive verbs. The basic idea is that the intransitive verb here is being modified by a prepositional phrase which describes how the verb is being done. So in this case, the spindrift (snow) is "whipped" or moved quickly--and how it's being done is described by the prepositional phrase "off the mountain." grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/verbs/…
    – Katy
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 21:22

A secondary definition of "whip" is "to move quickly and violently, or to make something do this". This is commonly used in a meteorological context in connection with the wind when it has a violent effect on other elements such as rain, snow, or detritus on the ground.


The wind whipped her hair into her eyes.

Rain whipped across the window pane.

The branches were being whipped about in the storm.

In your text, it is used to describe spindrift (snow in this example, but can also refer to wind-driven rain or seaspray) being blown violently from the top of the mountain (La Meije).

"Unfurling down its flanks" is poetically describing the glacial ice and other features that run down the mountainside. When something "unfurls" it opens up or spreads out, so perhaps the ice resembles material that has been opened up or something that has been poured down the mountain.

  • I'm sorry but isn't "unfurling down its flanks" describing that the glaciers are extending down the sides of the mountain? Thank you.
    – Ally Fe
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 9:06
  • @AllyFe You might be right - there is no "and" in the sentence so it seemed at first to me to be a continuation of the description of the spray, but looking at it again I think you are right and it is detail about the mountain.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 9:07

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