Someone Needs to Tell the Glaciers
By LARRY ANTHONY PANNELL
If you follow my articles in Pulse NInside Passageews México, you know that I write of my adventures and the places I have visited around the world. But this article is going to be a departure. This article is written on a personal level and, hopefully, will shake you to your core. It tells how global climate change is real, and how I have seen it firsthand.
I am not going to delve into the scientific research and the politics of the issue other than to say that I agree with the 97 percent of the world’s scientists that state man has played a significant role in global warming.
Since 2010, I have spent seven summers working on various cruise ships traveling to Alaska and the Inside Passage. One reason thousands of people every year travel to Alaska by cruise ship is to experience the glaciers, many of which can only be seen by ship.
Having lived in Yosemite National Park and in the Rocky Mountains, I have seen and hiked to a number of glaciers. However, you never really experience a glacier until you are up close and personal from the deck of a ship. From this vantage point, you witness its true power as immense walls of ice crash into the sea.
I visited my first glacier in Alaska during the summer of 2010. I was working on the Rhapsody of the Seas as we cruised through the Tracy Arm Fjord. As the steep mountain walls narrowed and we approached the Sawyer Glacier. I was mesmerized by its size and its beauty. I was only brought back to reality with the sounds of massive blocks of ice tumbling into the water.
For the last several years, I have visited Glacier Bay National Park and its many glaciers several times. I have stood silent, watching the mile-wide Marjorie Glacier in all her glory.
I have observed the Hubbard Glacier, a magnificent seven-mile-wide mountain of ice advance to the water’s edge only to shed mammoth flakes of its frozen skin.
Although I have witnessed the retreat of many glaciers, it is usually hard to notice the difference when you visit year after year. But that changed this year when, for the first time in seven years, I returned to the Sawyer Glacier.
To say I was shocked is an understatement of what I felt as the ship came to rest several hundred yards away from its face. The glacier was a shadow of its former self. On board my ship, we visit the Sawyer every week and there has been a number of weeks that we could not approach the glacier safely with the amount of ice in the water.
Returning to my cabin, I took my book on Alaska off the shelf and began to compare before and after shots. My heart broke, it ached, and my eyes began to tear as I realized two-thirds of the Sawyer Glacier had disappeared over a seven year period.
Later that evening, I searched my computer for past images of other Alaska glaciers that I had taken photographs of. I was speechless at what I found. The same thing was happening everywhere and it very noticeable.
Another image in my book was that of the Lamplugh Glacier. Comparing photos side-by-side it was obvious that this glacier too had changed dramatically. Easily, about a third of the glaciers had disappeared and the images were a mere three years apart.
I have not been to the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau in a number of years and vowed to make the hike the next time we were in port. After walking a little over a mile, I stood at the edge of Mendenhall Lake, listening to the roar of Nugget Falls. I focused my camera on the distant shore and the Mendenhall Glacier. Once again, the difference was very noticeable as it, too, had retreated over the past few years.
As I write this, we are experiencing a major heat wave in Alaska, with many of the ports in the mid-80s and Anchorage even topping 90 degrees. The record heat has sparked wildfires thoughout Alaska and the once-blue skies are now a brown haze, obscuring the mountain tops.
And it is not only in Alaska that the world is undergoing climate change. Europe is also setting records with temperatures as high as 114 degrees Fahrenheit in France. News reports have stated that June was the hottest month on record.
Over the past week, I have watched a few documentaries on climate change. One that stood out was “Chasing Ice,” the 2014 Emmy Award winning documentary. Watching James Balog document the glaciers, I could not help but remember it takes 100 feet of snow to make 1 foot of glacial ice.
I cannot help but wonder if the warnings about climate change are “fake news,” as so many naysayers would like us to believe? Or is it really happening like the vast majority of the world’s scientists have predicted and countless cameras have documented in study-after-study.
If global warming is just a myth, if it doesn’t really exist, somebody needs to tell the glaciers because they are melting at an alarming rate!