As climate clock ticks, aviator races to photograph glaciers | Climate CrisisDecember 20, 2022
Chunks of ice floated in milky blue waters. Clouds drifted and hid imposing mountaintops. The closer to the surface, the more the water roared – and the louder the “crack” of ice, as pieces fell from the arm of Europe’s largest glacier.
The landscape was vast, elemental, and seemingly far beyond human scale. The whole world, it seemed, lay sprawled out. Against this outsized backdrop, the plane carrying the man who chases glaciers seemed almost like a toy.
This was 41-year-old Garrett Fisher’s playground and his life’s work.
He was travelling the world, watching it from far above, sitting in the seat of his tiny blue-white “Super Cub” aircraft. It was here that he combined his two longtime passions, photography and flight, in a quest to document every remaining glacier on the face of the Earth.
But he also did it because the climate clock is ticking, and the planet’s glaciers are melting. Because Fisher was convinced that documenting, archiving, and remembering all of this served a purpose.
Glaciers are not static. In a world that is getting warmer, they are getting smaller.
According to data from the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the Alps, for example, have lost about half their volume since 1900, with the most evident acceleration of melting happening since the 1980s. Glacier retreat is expected to continue.
Estimates from the EEA have said that by 2100, the volume of European glaciers will continue to decline by between 22 percent and 84 percent – and that is under a moderate scenario. More aggressive modelling suggests up to 89 percent could be lost.
Fisher has launched a glacier initiative, a non-profit to support and showcase his work, and he plans to open his archive to the public for research.
“We can live without them. We will live without them,” Fisher says. “However, it hurts us to lose them.”