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.