nunataks in a breaking storm
Most of these black and white Photographs were made in the Kachemak Bay area, near the town of Homer, Alaska. those of the Throne room were taken from the balcony of my log cabin. Many of the others are from August ski expeditions on the icefield of southern Kenai Peninsula in the highest reaches of Kenai Fjords National Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness. Shy mountain goats live here in sparse populations that are of the highest density on the planet for their species. A few rodents burrow into the glacial gravels, wolves occasionally cross the ice looking for a kid goat or taking a shortcut into another valley. Otherwise, mammals do not enter this zone. Man included. Only a few local mountaineers from the Homer area ever make it this far back, and even they do it only on rare occasions. I have made five pilgrimages to this wonderland, and have never seen any sign of any human presence. As far as I know, no other photographer has been here.
The icefield sits on top of the Kenai Mountain Range, and feeds all the glaciers that flow down through steep-walled valleys towards salt water. Many of these glaciers, when visible from the water, have been named by early visitors--some Russian, some American. We mountaineers use those names like street names—they are routes of access to the high ice. Many of these photos where made near the Wosnesenski Glacier, which we abbreviate to, “the Woz”. None of the mountains are “officially” named, except for the highest peak in the range: a bold pyramidal nunatak named “Iceworm Peak”, after the worms that miraculously live in the snows here. Other names are created by mountaineers to facilitate communication. The names “stick” if it is a prominent feature, and if the name is good. An Alaskan female mountaineer of Swiss origin named “The Thumb”, I named “The Throne Room”, and “The Stairway to Heaven”.
Due to global warming, over 98% of Alaskan glaciers studied are receding. Over the last few years I have seen the Woz retreat by an incredible 100 feet per year. In some areas the retreat of the past half-century can be measured in miles. Glaciologists predict that in 30 years Glacier National Park in Montana will have no more glaciers. Alaska’s ice will remain longer, but the melting accelerates as the non-frozen season lengthens, and as newly exposed rock and earth absorbs solar radiation, warming the local microclimates. These photographs document what the place looks like now. They will allow future generations will see what this area looked like “back at the turn of the century”. Those future people will never see a live polar bear, because the arctic sea ice that the bruin uses to live on and hunt seals from is also receding at an alarming rate. Last summer the sea ice was 500,000 square miles smaller than the average.
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