In the field with Chasing Ice

When I first saw the documentary Chasing Ice last summer, I was awestruck. It’s a film about glaciers–their beauty, their recession, and the people that travel to the ends of the earth to bring the realities of ice to the public eye. I watched the movie again and again, each time knowing that some day I wanted to work with the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the driving force behind the film and the project.

The basic premise for the film is that a photographer, James Balog, develops a project to document glacial recession. He and his crew set up specially designed cameras on remote areas of glaciers around the world. The cameras photograph the glaciers at regular intervals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The result is the most cutting edge time-lapse photography of glacial recession available today, or as Balog himself says, a visual voice of the glaciers.

On June 9th–weather pending–I’ll be meeting with an EIS crew member and glaciologist to check camera sites on the Mendenhall Glacier in Southeast Alaska. Due to its close proximity to Juneau, the Mendenhall is one of the most famous and widely photographed glaciers. It’s also a glacier that’s been changing rapidly; throughout the 20th century it receded an estimated 1.6 miles, and the annual rate of retreat has increased in recent years.

Again, I’m not here to tell you about climate change and melting ice, but I’m finding that in the process of writing about glaciers it’s hard to not talk about recession. Regardless, my goal in the field is to experience the Mendenhall, and to explore the motivations behind the people that devote their lives to studying and documenting ice. So keep your fingers crossed for good weather!

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