Interviews

How Mendenhall Glacier Teaches About Climate Change

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, Tourism | 0 comments

How Mendenhall Glacier Teaches About Climate Change

Spread the News:Share http://glacierhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/14660123_305920749789253_2535486556819423232_n.mp4 Mendenhall Glacier (Source: Cameron Cowles). Visiting Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska is a memorable experience for about 575,000 visitors each year. A top attraction, the glacier stretches 13 miles across the Juneau Ice Field, terminating on the far side of Mendenhall Lake. Surrounded by 38 other glacial remnants of the last ice age, it remains one of the most visited and visible of Alaska’s glaciers. A trip to Mendenhall offers the opportunity to hike on top of a glacier, drink from a cool stream and talk with other tourists from around the world. Visitors may also interact in the deglaciated landscape with plants, wildlife and birds on one of the trails leading through the Mendenhall Valley and the Tongass National Forest. Most importantly, visitors can witness firsthand the glacial retreat that has visibly altered the Alaskan landscape. U.S. Forest Service Rangers have learned to tell Mendenhall’s tale, a story about the effects of climate change and consequences of a warming planet. A visit to Mendenhall comes with an upsetting observation: glaciers in Alaska are retreating at an alarming rate. The Mendenhall Glacier has receded more than a mile and a half in the last half century, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Unfortunately, glacial retreat will only likely continue due to our warming planet, impacting tourism and the surrounding ecosystem. Animals such as the mountain goat, black bear, porcupine, bald eagle, and beaver, as well as countless plants that grow in the area, will all be affected. That is why the staff of the U.S. Forest Service and John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, are using the Mendenhall Glacier to educate visitors about climate change. “In 1982, the glacier was just another glacier because I didn’t have the experience of watching it disappear over time,” John Neary explained to GlacierHub. “Now that I have watched it quickly shrink, I’m alarmed and feel it should be used to demonstrate how our world is dramatically changing.” For his part, Neary relies on his own experience with the glacier when talking to visitors about climate change. He tells them about the time he was out hiking on a steep trail beside the glacier and his dog fell 90 feet onto the ice. When Visitor Center was opened in 1962 it was just a quarter mile from the glacial face. In 1982, when he first saw it, the face had retreated another half mile. Most recently, he has been watching the glacier retreat further, leaving the lake that it had once reached. Neary works with a team of 25 Forest Service staff to explain these effects to the tourists every day. At the visitor center, visitors can learn about Mendenhall’s glacial retreat through art exhibits, a 15-minute film, and guided walks. With a window facing the glacier, the rangers talk regularly about the effects of climate change. “We describe the mechanics of glaciation, the value of glaciers and the worrisome scale of their disappearance,” says Neary. “But we hope to do much more with this subject in the future.” The glacial retreat of Mendenhall can be easily observed by visitors in photographs at the visitor center or witnessed by repelling deep into the ice caves that are formed when the glacier melts and erodes. Adam DiPietro, a tourist who was exploring one of the ice caves at Mendenhall, described the experience to GlacierHub: “My friend and I discovered the moulin [hole] a couple of weeks ago and came back with gear to descend into it. We repelled 70′ to the bottom and crawled through a small hole at the base…The cave...

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Oxonians Retrace Paths Through Spitsbergen 93 Years Later

Posted by on Nov 1, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, Science, Sports | 0 comments

Oxonians Retrace Paths Through Spitsbergen 93 Years Later

Spread the News:ShareDuring summer, a team of four students from Oxford University, led by undergraduate James Lam, completed a 184-mile expedition across the Ny-Friesland ice cap in Spitsbergen, Norway. Accompanied by a guide, Endre Før Gjermundsen, they skied across the ice cap from July 31 to August 29, retracing the route of a similar expedition conducted by four Oxford University undergraduates in 1923, and collecting scientific data about glaciers along the way. Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, a territory located within the Arctic circle. Svalbard has more than 2,100 glaciers, constituting 60 percent of its land area, many of which are found on Spitsbergen. The island is also home to many mountains and fjords, giving rise to its name, which means ‘pointed mountains’ in Dutch. Ny-Friesland in east Spitsbergen has received limited attention from scientists, with little data having been recorded since the 1923 expedition. As such, the team of undergraduates worked with researchers from Oxford University and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) to collect different forms of data on the island’s environment, glaciers and climate. The expedition was inspired by the discovery of original maps and photos from the 1923 expedition in the archives of the Oxford University Exploration Club. All of the team members, James Lam, Jamie Gardiner, Will Hartz and Liam Garrison, have personal skiing and mountaineering experience spanning three different continents. Nevertheless, they undertook nine months of rigorous training and extensive preparations to ensure the success of both the scientific and physically strenuous aspects of the expedition. During the trip, the students photographed, recorded and collected DNA samples from vascular plants encountered at ten different locations between Duym point in the east and the terminus of Nordernskiold glacier in the west. These samples are currently being analyzed at UNIS and will be added to the Svalbard Flora database. They will provide valuable contributions to understandings of dispersal patterns on glaciers, particularly as there is only one other set of biological data for East Spitsbergen. Using a drone, the students successfully mapped three sections of the Chydeniusbreen glacier. This will be used to create 3D maps of these areas, which will be compared to satellite data and the Norwegian Polar Institute’s models of the glacier to measure glacial change. The team was also able to successfully repeat 25 of the landscape photographs taken on the 1923 expedition. These will be used to practice photogrammetry, the science of measurements done using photographs, to be used in conjunction with the 3-D maps and satellite data to track glacial change in Ny-Friesland. One of the aims of the 1923 expedition was to summit hitherto unclimbed peaks. In the same vein, the 2016 team summitted 8 different peaks, including a number of mountains climbed by the original expedition, such as Poincarétoppen, Mount Chernishev and Mount Irvine. The students also made the first ever ascent of the West Ridge of Newtontoppen, Svalbard’s highest mountain (5,666 ft). These efforts were carried out alongside the scientific aims of the expedition, with the team remaining camped in the base camp of Loven Plateau for a week in order to pursue repeat photography and data collection. GlacierHub caught up with two of the team members for a short interview about the expedition and what the team intends to do now that they have returned. GlacierHub: What happens now that the expedition is over? James Lam, team leader: Now that the expedition is over, I am working to process the data that we collected. I’m collaborating with the Earth Sciences Department in Oxford as well as UNIS and the Norwegian Polar Institute....

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An All-Woman Climbing Team in the Andes

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Interviews, News, Sports, Uncategorized | 1 comment

An All-Woman Climbing Team in the Andes

Spread the News:ShareMujer Montaña—“Woman Mountain” in Spanish—participated in a recent project of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), in which women climbers from Latin America and Europe carried out ascents of peaks in two mountain ranges in the Bolivian Andes. They established mountaineering records, achieving first all-female ascents and opening new routes. They met another goal as well,  promoting exchanges between people of different cultures and worldviews. And, in their distinctive way, they built awareness of mountains in the context of climate change—a key goal of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Award Platform, which supported the project. This project, supported by a number of government agencies and tourism firms in South America and Europe, brought together the members of Mujer Montaña, a Latin American group founded in 2013, with representatives of the Women’s High Mountain Group of the French Federation of Alpine Mountain Clubs (a UIAA member since 1932). In total, four women from South America and eight from Europe took part in the project. The group started out in the Quimsa Cruz range on 28 July, staying there through 7 August. Traveling from their base camp at 4,400m, they climbed a new route up Torrini (5800 m). The second stage in the Cordillera Real, from 10 to 19 August, included ascents of Chachacomani (6100m), Janq’o Uyu (5520m) and Jisk’a Pata (5510m). The final stage, in the city of La Paz, involved a meeting on 22 August with students at the Catholic University of Bolivia, discussing issues of mountain protection, climate change and glacier retreat. On the last day, 23 August, they participated in a program with teachers and schoolgirls which linked climbing and self-esteem, and addressed issues of female empowerment. Carolina Adler, the president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Program, took part in the Janq’o Uyu ascent, as well as the last two days in La Paz. The group is preparing a documentary film about their expedition, and preparing their next climbs, scheduled for November, which will take place in Ecuador. And they are waiting for the selection of the 2016 UIAA Mountain Protection Award winner. That will be announced October 14 in Brixen, Sudtirol, Italy during the 2016 UIAA General Assembly. GlacierHub interviewed Lixayda Vasquez, one of the participants in the project. Vasquez comes from Cusco, Peru. In addition to Spanish, she also speaks Quechua, a major indigenous language of the Andes. GH: What do you see as the significance of all-woman climbing expeditions? LV: I think that what is most important is to stop seeing mountains as a place where only strong men, the ones with “big muscles,” can go. In recent times, many women in my country have wanted to explore new experiences for themselves, experiences which take them outside their comfort zone. They leave this zone, filled with myths and a whole machismo complex. And they discover that when they go outdoors, they enter a wonderful world where they never feel alone, because they are connected with nature. It’s not necessary to go to the mountain in expeditions that are composed only of women, or only of men. The best way is for men and women to complement each other. We can remember that men and women are parts of the same world. And we can both bring our distinct contributions to make this world better.   GH: As a climber who speaks Quechua, have you ever used Quechua on an expedition? LV: Quechua once saved my life. I was with a group of friends from the climbing club in Cusco. We were trying to ascend Chicón, a snow peak in Cusco. It was already dark when we...

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Sports Medicine Specialist Discusses Ice Climbing

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, Sports | 0 comments

Sports Medicine Specialist Discusses Ice Climbing

Spread the News:ShareVolker Schoeffl, a physician and professor in Bamberg, Germany, is a leading specialist on sports medicine, with particular emphasis on climbing. He works in both Germany. He is the physician of the German national climbing team, and also serves on the medical commissions of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation  and the International Federation of Sport Climbing.  He is an accomplished climber himself, having completed the first ascent of the south face of Batu Lawi in Sarawak, Indonesia, and having climbed more recently in Laos. GlacierHub recently interviewed Schoeffl about his research. GH: In a recent publication on extreme sports, you discussed ice climbing, and stated “Most of the acute injuries (73.4%) happened in an icefall climbing, a smaller number on glacier ice walls (11.4%), and the least on artificial ice walls (2.5%).”  Do you think that this low proportion of injuries on glaciers is due to a lower rate of injuries per hour for this activity, or to the fact that people climb more often on icefalls than they do on glacier ice walls or artificial ice walls? VS: I would say that the latter reason is the important one. Fewer people climb on glacier ice walls and on artificial ice walls than they do on icefalls.   GH: In this publication, you also state, “The overall injury rate [in ice climbing] published in the literature is comparable with other outdoor sports (2.87-4.07 injuries/1000 hrs, with most injuries of minor severity.” Do you think people perceive ice climbing as more dangerous than rock climbing? VS: I personally still think that ice climbing is riskier than rock climbing. However, the study did not definitively prove that. Further evidence must be collected before we can reach firm conclusions.  We do know that there are very different risk profiles in different kinds of climbing. For example, indoor climbing lacks certain external objective dangers, such as rockfalls, which are much more common in ice climbing and traditional rock climbing.   GH: Do you have any thoughts or information on accidents and injuries that are related specifically to glaciers, such as falling into crevasses? VS: I cannot comment on this topic, because data are not available.   GH: What advice would you give to ice climbers? VS: I would give the advice that they most likely already know. Be extra cautious, because falling is not an option! Be sure to consider external hazards, such as icefalls and avalanches. And remember that not only ascents are risky; descents are dangerous as well. Readers who would like to learn more about Dr. Schoeffl’s research and to hear his advice can read his book, One Move Too Many: How to Understand the Injuries and Overuse Syndromes of Rock Climbing. First published in 2033, the third edition of the book, with extensive new material, was published earlier this year. Interested readers can also participate in a sports medicine clinic which he is co-organizing in Bamberg, Germany from June 22 to 25, 2017, which addresses climbing, as well as running. It includes sessions on training and on injury prevention, as well as on diagnosis and treatment of injuries. This event is sponsored by the German Alpine Club, the Bavarian Sports Medicine Association, and Bamberg Social Foundation. The program and registration forms are available here. Spread the...

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Norwegian Institute Releases Video Interview with Ben Orlove

Posted by on Sep 22, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, News | 0 comments

Norwegian Institute Releases Video Interview with Ben Orlove

Spread the News:ShareThe Norwegian Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) recently released a video of an interview with Ben Orlove, the editor of GlacierHub, focusing on a lecture which he gave earlier this year in Oslo. The journalist Karoline Kvellestad Isaksen, who is affiliated with CAS, conducted the interview and produced the video. Orlove, an anthropologist, is a professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.   The lecture, “Glaciers in Nature and in Public Life: Science and Society in the Anthropocene,” was jointly sponsored by CAS and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. It was held on April 28 in the Academy’s main building, a nineteenth-century mansion overlooking the Oslo Fjord. In the interview, Isaksen and Orlove discussed the themes of the lecture. They opened with the broad significance of glaciers as signs of climate change around the world, and the ways in which glaciers cut across the divide between wealthy and poor nations. They recognized the direct economic impacts of glacier retreat, particularly on water resources and natural hazards, but they pointed out that the importance of glaciers extends beyond these economic concerns to issues of human identity. Citing pilgrimages in the Andes and the Himalayas, Orlove stressed that glaciers are cherished by indigenous people. He reported on a conversation with a group of Quechua alpaca herders in Peru, who said that they had wondered whether the glaciers on a nearby peak were shrinking because the mountain–recognizing the growing lack of respect for the earth on the part of humans–was angry or because it was sad. They decided that the latter was the case. It was this point that led Isaksen to title the interview “The Mountain Is Sad.” Orlove added that glaciers matter greatly to people in other, less remote, settings as well. He offered Seattle and Yerevan, Armenia, as examples of modern cities where specific glaciers are also valued, and commented that glaciers touch even the people who live far from mountains, because of the way that they allow people to recognize the deep importance of the natural world. These esthetic, emotional and spiritual connections with glaciers allow them to build awareness of need for rapid, effective action on climate change. Isaksen and Orlove discussed other threats to glaciers besides climate change, particularly from mining, whether the direct removal of glacier ice for sale, as in Norway, or the destruction of glaciers by mining companies seeking access to ore, as in Chile and Kyrgyzstan. Closing the interview, Orlove said that when we look at glaciers, “we see this beauty, we see this fragility, above all we see this urgency.” Spread the...

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Alaska Filmmaker Mike Loso Speaks about Glaciers

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Interviews | 0 comments

Alaska Filmmaker Mike Loso Speaks about Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareThe short firm “Glaciers – Why Should We Care?” is currently being shown as part of International Polar Week. This event, running from 19 to 25 September 2016, is designed to promote polar science and education around the world, and includes a five-day film festival. It is sponsored by the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, headquartered at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. Michael Loso, a scientist at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, is featured in the film, which shows the importance of glaciers in natural ecosystems and in human society. In a recent interview, Loso explained to GlacierHub that he made the video two years ago when he was a professor at Alaska Pacific University. Stacia Bakkensto, a science outreach coordinator with the National Park Service at Fairbanks, suggested the idea of the video to him. She had selected Alaska’s glaciers as the theme for a story map—a set of video, images, texts and data that are presented in GIS form, linked to a map. She approached Loso because he was the lead author on a report from the NPS, Alaskan National Park Glaciers – Status and Trends Final Report, published in 2014. Backensto visited Loso near Kennicott Glacier, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, where he was conducting a field course with students at the university. She shot a good deal of video that day, he recalled, and used some of it for the video featured here. Though that video did not fit into the story map that was produced (that one featured repeat photography of Alaska glaciers), it has circulated in a number of settings, and has received hundreds of views. In the video, Loso stresses that glaciers are important, not just because they are linked to fisheries, to natural hazards and to other things of economic value to humans, but for themselves. He moved to Alaska because the glaciers are so cool—a word he repeats several times. He expresses the sense of “loss to our heritage” that glaciers are shrinking—in part because of human actions. Loso states in the video that glaciers aren’t sentient beings “like wolves and bears,” which are protected through the Endangered Species Act. He adds “we don’t have an endangered glaciers act. If I was president, we would have one.” During the interview, he mentioned that he knew the work of the anthropologist Julie Cruikshank, who has written a book about her field work in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, Do Glaciers Listen? In that book, she discusses the views of the indigenous communities of the region, who believe that glaciers are sentient. Loso paraphrased Cruikshank’s portrayal of the native historical view: “If you behave poorly towards them [the glaciers], they will exact their revenge.” Our modern scientific view is different, he said, and we understand that glaciers are not sentient. Nonetheless, he said, “cause and effect play out. We have behaved with a lack of respect, and much to everyone’s surprise, there’s a set of consequences that rain down on us.” In that way, he said, “the native peoples were right. The glaciers can cause misfortune, and therein lies a lesson for us, regardless of your worldview.” He continued to explain his thoughts. The scientific revolution led us to move past “superstition and myth” by providing a scientific explanation for natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions and tornadoes. We no longer viewed these disasters as consequences of our own behavior. But now “the modern environmental movement has renewed that old sense of culpability.” He cited as an example the recent seismic activity in Oklahoma, which has shown us that humans can cause earthquakes. “Our sense of responsibility...

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