I saw in the news last week that a massive crack in the Larsen ice shelf has increased by six miles in the past few weeks, with the entire crack being over 100 miles long. When a crack in ice is measured in miles, the size of the ice shelf itself is almost too large to comprehend.
We are used to the idea of ice at both our poles. Santa lives in the North, of course, surrounded by polar bears and narwhals and a floating sea of ice. And penguins inhabit the south, their tuxedoed forms clumsy on land and greased lightning in the frigid waters. Yet the ice is receding, and has been for much of the last century, the sea now too wide in places for polar bears to swim, vast icebergs breaking away in the South. Global warming, despite all the naysayers, is a reality, and the melting of the icecaps is just one part of a bigger picture that includes rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Glaciers, too, are receding. Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth showed some sobering before and after images of places where the ice once flowed. I’ve snowboarded across a glacier, at the top of Blackcomb Mountain in BC. Canada. I’ve also been inside one, in Switzerland. The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, running for about 23 km, and it’s here that I’m heading for this week’s Wednesday Wander
The Jungfraujoch, at the top of the Jungfrau mountain in Switzerland, is a popular destination for visitors. There are several activities up there, as well as spectacular views of the glacier (via, as I remember it, a small metal balcony bolted to the side of the building – still haunts my nightmares). There is also the Eispalast, one of the highest altitude ice palaces in the world. Carved into the side of the glacier, it has a network of rooms filled with sculptures carved from ice. It’s bitterly cold inside, as you can imagine, the ice a luminous blue. Some of the sculptures have had colour added, while others are simply as they were carved.
A funicular railway takes you to and from the top of the mountain, and on the way down we chose to alight before the bottom, walking the last section so as to take in the glorious views. I’ve written about this landscape before, as this is where Tolkien was wandering when he was inspired to write Lord of The Rings. Looking at the otherworldly beauty of the valley, I can see why.
Our world is shaped from ice and fire, and I feel fortunate to have been close to both extremes, from volcanoes in Tenerife and Hawaii to glaciers in Canada and Switzerland. It is usually at the extreme of the scale that change first becomes apparent, so the warnings written in both fire and ice perhaps should be heeded. While we like to think we have some control over nature, in reality we are part of it and we ignore that at our peril.
Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week!
Note: the views on climate change expressed here are my own. I realise there may be readers who see things differently – if so, let us agree to, respectfully, disagree. Thanks.
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The photos are stunning, Helen. Another of those places I always wanted to visit, but never quite got when I was in Switzerland.
Thanks, Sue. It really was the most beautiful valley, the photos don’t really do it justice if you can believe it. We stayed in a little guest house right on the valley floor – all you could hear when you opened the window was the chime of cowbells and the waterfalls. Just beautiful. I’d like to go back and see it again one day (like Bilbo :-D)
My mother stayed there for her 21st… I always wanted to see it 🙂
I think you might have mentioned that on my Rivendell post a while back – it must have been a lovely way to celebrate. I hope you get to see it one day 🙂
So do I 🙂
I didn’t know about Tolkien and Rivendell! That’s cool. And wow, that Eispalast… I’m intrigued by the “chapel” with the image of the Risen Christ – that image looks very familiar; I wonder who created it.
Yes, it is cool about Tolkien, isn’t it? I didn’t find out until after I’d been there, but it certainly makes sense. And if you look at his illustrations for Rivendell there is a marked similarity. Apparently while there he also bought a picture of an old man in robes with a staff and pointed hat…
And the Eispalast was really interesting – from what I remember they didn’t have any artist names listed. The first sculptures and rooms were done in the 1930s and I guess they just kept adding to it. I just remember how cold it was in there!
It’s once again interesting to see that even “The Bigwigs” used real-ilfe inspiration. I have folders full of images pulled off Google, as well as my own photos, of course, that I use for inspiration – and I guess I’m in good company with that. Paintings done “from life” tend to have a quality about them that work done from pure imagination is lacking, and that goes for writing as well.
Yes, I agree totally. I was quite thrilled when I found out about it for that reason – that the great man came to his stories the same way most of us do. A chance encounter with scenery, an image, a person, an idea then boom! story 🙂
Always awesome to read your post about you and your travels. You are quite the adventurer!
Thanks, Anthony 🙂 Really glad you enjoy my wanders around the place. Hope you’re having a safe and happy 2017 so far xx
I am, Helen. I hope you are too, lovely!
Thanks, Anthony – all good here 🙂 xx
I don’t always comment on your Wednesday Wanders, but I do enjoy them. For once, I can say I’ve been there! I took the train up Jungfrau way back in 1990. My friend skied, but I had a broken arm already, so declined. (Don’t ask how I got it—it’s an indecorous tale!)
Thanks Louise 🙂 And, how funny, I went up the Jungfrau in 1990 too! I think it was May – imagine if we were there at the same time 😀 And haha, I can just imagine your adventures – bet you had a great time (despite the broken arm). So pleased you enjoy my wanders xx
I think it was around June or July that I was there, but I can’t be sure without checking. You don’t remember bumping into a red-headed Aussie girl with a broken arm on your travels, do you? 😉
I did meet a few Aussies on my travels (hardly surprising), but I don’t remember anyone having a broken arm, sadly – that would have stuck in my memory. Still, so close!
You sure get around, Helen. It’s great life experience that strengthens our convictions on important issues. I dearly love this post and how you brought in the issue of global warming. 🙂
Thanks so much, Kev, that’s a lovely comment. I have travelled a bit, though there’s lots of places I’d still like to go. So glad you enjoyed this post- with all that’s going on in the world, I felt I wanted to write it 😀
And that’s why it’s so good… Keep writing from your heart. 💗
Aw, thanks, Kev – that’s so lovely of you to say xx