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Summer 2013 Landscape Photography Masterclass » Spines of Ice, Athabasca Glacier

At the end of several of kilometers of walking up from the base of the Athabasca Glacier is this sight – the icefall, its dense core gleaming a cold blue-green under a coating of crumbled surface ice and rock dust. The glacier, many tens of meters thick, pours slowly over a ridge in the mountainside underneath. As it does, it fractures and calves off pieces of itself ranging from small chunks and plates to huge seracs. The jagged formations look like the spines of some massive dinosaur, extinct as indeed the glacier itself will be likely within my lifetime.

That such a volume of millennia-old ice could be gone within years is almost beyond belief, especially when its chill, immense presence has been has been experienced up close. The Columbia Icefield is described as one of two hydrological apexes of North America (the other being in Glacier National Park in Montana). Meltwater from here flows into three separate oceans (Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic). But as the ancient glacier melts, it isn’t being replaced. Its disappearance will have many consequences.

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