Terminal Decline

On my recent holiday in the Swiss Alps I spent a considerable amount of time photographing the glaciers and, on one day, crossing two of them.

This image is a small section of the last 100yds or so of the Fee Glacier (pronounced ‘fay’) above the village of Saas Fee. The glacier, at this point, is in its death throes – fractured, fragmented, collapsing and melting. I descended the length of this glacier for the first time in 1962 and over the course of the last 55 years I  have witnessed glacial retreat – the evidence of irrefutable.

Glaciers are an integral and critical element in the Alpine scenery and I feel quite emotional when I see the changes that are occurring annually.

Today’s image is the first in a series of glacial images that will follow in the next few weeks.  I have several hundred images to work through and a few stories to tell. This is just a taster.

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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32 Responses to Terminal Decline

  1. And some say Global Warming is a myth. Beautiful image Andy. Looking forward to seeing what follows.

  2. Great image Andy! Let’s hope that your images don’t become a historical record a couple of generations on, as to how stupid humans can be and how we managed to destroy the glaciers and much, much more.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Paul. Over the years I’ve collected post cards and colour negatives which show very clearly what these glaciers were like 50 years ago. I’m hoping to include one or two of them in future posts

  3. paula graham says:

    Interesting series in the making, stunning start.

  4. shoreacres says:

    Some of your other interests came to mind when I saw only the title of this post in my email. “Terminal decline” led me to expect photos of an aged and worn train station!

    This is an interesting view of a glacier. It reminds me of Iowa snow about mid-March, after heaps and heaps of plowed snow have begun to melt and then, covered with road dirt, refreeze into piles of distinctly non-pristine ice.

    • LensScaper says:

      There are more images to come of ‘non-pristine’ snow. Many of us have this picture of glaciers being ribbons of pure white snow incised by an unseen god. That may well be the case in winter, but when the surface snow melts in Spring the truth is more ugly. Glaciers are conveyor belts of grit and rock and the further down the glacier that you look the worse they appear so that sometimes it becomes almost impossible to see where the ice ends and rock begins. Your description of Iowa snow is pretty accurate.

  5. Lisa Gordon says:

    A beautiful photograph, Andy, but such a very sad situation.

  6. Chillbrook says:

    I have enjoyed the amazing colours one finds in glaciers in Iceland. Not quite so pretty in summer. It’s devastating what is happening to our planet and it seems to be accelerating. Of great concern and of little concern to the most powerful and influential nation in the world. Extremely worrying that these people can be denying what is happening before our own eyes. You don’t need a scientist to tell you the changes are of great concern to our very existence. A wonderful picture Andy. I’m looking forward to more.

    • LensScaper says:

      There are some signs that Trump is modifying his stance on the Climate Change agreement. His power base lies in the rust belt states and he would rather cozy up to them because he wants to be ‘President’ than put our planet first.

      • Chillbrook says:

        Sadly so true of most politicians and of course, corporations are run by directors whose performance is based on share price so there lies the problem with large corporations raping the planet with no regard for the implications. Corporations by their very nature are amoral as a result. We’ve an uphill struggle to change things before it’s too late.
        I was so saddened in Fuerteventura, Andy, to be walking along an absolutely pristine, beautiful beach that goes on for miles but on closer inspection, at the tide line, along with the shells and small pebbles were thousands of tiny pieces of plastic.
        Only now are we realising the damage this is doing to the oceans as sea creatures ingest this waste. It seems an absolutely impossible clean up operation. It’s there. Is it too late? I suspect it probably is but at least we can try and stop further pollution of this kind but it’s not going to be easy. The older I get, the greener I get. I think of my nieces and nephews and their children and the legacy our generations and the generations before are leaving them when all it comes down to in the world today is profit is profit for a few and those that profit, lobby the politicians and usually get their way.
        When you learn a corporation is taking Puerto Rico, I think, to court in the US because the government of that country refused to grant mining rights in a national park to a them. It beggars belief. Not sure how a US Court could have jurisdiction over another nation state but that’s what’s happening. We need wealth creation, capitalism provides that but it has to change. To be more responsible. How? I don’t know.

        • LensScaper says:

          A very thoughtful comment, Adrian, with which I entirely agree. Ignorance, avarice, profit, war have all played a part in the current plight of our planet.

  7. rabirius says:

    Great composition.

  8. bluebrightly says:

    This one is really interesting for the textures, and the way the texture in the background looks applied, so the whole image is very painterly. And the curves of the silt and “stuff” on the ice have taken on the look of brushwork. I like that!

  9. seekraz says:

    It looks like a very dangerous and compelling bit of ice. I will look forward to the rest of the treasures you have for us.

  10. sixpixx says:

    Lovely textures and tones but terrible implications..

    • LensScaper says:

      Yes, this glacier is the tip of a huge ‘iceberg’ (no pun intended) of ice that is melting across our planet. I hope to post images of this glacier from about 55 years ago as a comparison – searching through a very large archive to find a good image.

  11. You could’ve told me that this picture shows rocks rather than ice and I’d have had no reason to doubt you.

    When we hiked from the road to the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta last month, we noticed occasional signs marking the places that the toe of the glacier had reached in various years over the last century.

    • LensScaper says:

      I have seen something similar to those markings in the Alps at Montenvers near Chamonix. You can descend to the glacier – the Mer de Glace – down a series of staircases and at various intervals there is a sign stating that this was the level of the glacier in a particular year. I remember counting the steps down to the current level and it was well over a hundred. We tend to think of glacial retreat in terms of loss of length but it is also the colossal loss in depth that is frightening.

  12. Love the processing on this image, Andy. You’ve almost given the blocks of ice the feel of blankets.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Frank. Interesting you mention ‘blankets’. Not far from this picture a sizeable area of the edge of glacier is covered a huge white cover to endeavour to limit melting. This is to protect the point at which skiers ski off the glacier in winter to pick up a Chair lift to take them back up the glacier. Hard to think that perhaps 300yds uphill from here the glacier is still ski-able provided of course you stick closely within the safety markers.

  13. Dina says:

    Beautiful capture, Andy.

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