I walked up to Exit Glacier and once my mind wrapped around what I was seeing, I was shocked, surprised and saddened. It had been seven years since I’d seen it and the changes were staggering. It was like seeing a once vivacious old friend who is now gaunt, pallid and suffering from a mysterious ailment.
The glacier, located in Kenai Fjords National Park outside Seward, Alaska, is a special place to me, a place I’ve returned to several times. In the past it was possible to walk up to the toe of the glacier and see the towering mass of ice above, or approach it from a short trail where deep crevices harboring impossibly blue ice were visible. During our visit last week (August, 2014) we could no longer walk up to the toe and the deep crevices visible from the Exit Glacier Trail were no longer there. It was really sad.
Take a look at the below photos to see the changes.
The above two photos were taken from roughly the same spot. In 2006, my parents are seen looking up in awe of the glacier. I have always liked that photo. In 2014, visitors are looking down into the canyon at the glacier. That is a huge change!
The above two photos were taken from roughly the same spot, but the difference is incredible. In the top photo, you can see a large thumb on the left of the photo wrapped around a huge rocky area. In the 2014 photo, the thumb has melted.
This is no hoax. As you can see in the above photos featuring my friends and family from 2006 and 2007, and then me in 2014, we are all there posing in front of the glacier from about the same spot. I would never drag my parents into a liberal conspiracy, although I do wish they’d stop watching Fox News.
The park ranger said the toe of the glacier retreated 139 feet last year, which means that in the seven years since I’ve seen it, it has likely retreated 1000 feet. The above photo is some great evidence of that.
The below photo is very shocking to me. The sign says “Exit Glacier Was Here.” The year: 1998. In 16 years, the glacier has receded dramatically.
The year 1998 wasn’t that long ago. It was the year of Impeachment, Lewinsky and The Big Lebowski. Something about Mary was a surprise movie hit. Saving Private Ryan was a huge movie that year, and Tom Hanks and Matt Damon are still crushing it. That year, Derrick Jeter won his 2nd World Series and he is still playing for the (hated) Yankees.
In 1998, I was a 20-year-old college junior, trying figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Now I am a 36-year-old trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Not a lot has changed in the world, unless you are glacier.
What are your thoughts when looking at these photos?
I’d love to hear your comments.
Please share on your favorite social media sites by using the little buttons below. Maybe we can influence one climate change denier. Maybe.
Sad is exactly the right word. It’s hard to imagine such drastic changes. Your images really drive the point home.
It was very sad to see. I am glad I have the photos from past trips for comparison. Thank you for commenting.
The before and after photos are stunning! Wow!
Crazy how much has melted in just 7 years. I wonder what it will look like 7 years from now?
The difference is incredibly shocking. It reminds me how vulnerable our world is and why traveling and exploring NOW is a must for me. Thank you for this post.
Thanks Lucy, It does drive the importance of traveling now home. I feel very much helpless to do anything about it, which is a bad feeling.
I lived in Alaska for about eight years in the ’90s and went to Portage Glacier pretty regularly. Every time I’d go, it was shocking to see how much the glacier had retreated since my last visit. Thanks for sharing these photos. They’re incredibly disheartening, but people need to see what’s going on.
Portage Glacier made some very dramatic changes. It is shocking to see where it retreated from! You could of course once see it from the visitor center, now you must take a boat. Thank you for commenting!
Wow. Utterly depressing. I hear about the glaciers melting and see them on Discovery Channel, but, to see them in your pictures is more real somehow. If only people knew the damage we are all doing to our own world…Or cared. Thank you for sharing!
Lindsay, the worst part for me is that I see no chance of us making the wholesale changes necessary to slow down global warming. I decided to share these (with a dramatic headline 🙂 ) because they are just photos from a random guy, not professionally produced, so they have a bit more legitimacy, I think. Thanks for commenting.
I completely agree about the impact these had, because they are from your perspective. So much more believable for some reason.
I don’t see those changes occurring either. Don’t even get me started 🙂
Jeff, the change is staggering! Your photos should definitely influence more than one climate change denier. We heard people talk about similar changes when we visited the Mendenhall Glacier. ~Terri
I went to Mendenhall about 9 years ago and many locals told me the same thing also. I’d like to get over to Juneau and see what changes have occurred there.
Having worked around the glaciers of Prince William Sound in AK last summer I can say it is a pretty shocking and upsetting sight. Even the change that happens in one summer is astounding, let alone seven. I was, however, seeing one of the fastest receding glaciers in the world every day (Columbia Glacier). But I also did have the chance to see an ADVANCING glacier (Meares Glacier), and that was very impressive.
Have you seen the documentary Chasing Ice?? I recommend it to absolutely everyone, especially those who do not think climate change is happening. The footage of receding glaciers is insane, the message is important, and the photography is beautiful. Watch it ASAP if you haven’t yet!!!
Mary, thanks for the tip. I will have to check that out. That must have been interesting to see those glaciers for the summer. Thank you for commenting.
That is a huge change indeed. Sadness like losing an old friend sounds right.
Yes it was, Phil. It used to be such a dramatic sight, now it is a little boring. Very sad. Thanks for commenting.
These pictures are shocking – I love being able to share before and after pictures like this with people because no one ever seems to understand quite how much glaciers are retreating when you tell them.
I wouldn’t understand myself if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Exit Glacier was a place I always encouraged people to visit, now I am not sure it is worth the effort.
Extremely shocking and sad. Even with all the noise being made about climate change, we still have a long way to go to protect our glaciers. Will share it!
wonderful and powerful 🙂
Thank you Joshi.
Pretty amazing, right? It was really sad to see.
Completely sad. Those global warming people might be on to something …
Yes, they might be on something.
Your blog helps me mourn, if you will, the loss of the glaciers that I witnessed firsthand in the Kenai. I’ve been telling people all along, but somehow I remained in a distant state of denial about what I saw. I first came upon Exit glacier in 1993. The change was so dramatic (your post of the 1998 location is bad enough… Imagine the loss I witnessed since 1993). In the same way, the glaciers across Resurrection Bay from Seward have literally disappeared in the past 23 years. There’s only naked mountain now. It is not just sad – it’s disturbing. Thank you for your post.
Wow. I can only imagine what loss you’ve seen since 1993. The change is so dramatic in Arctic regions but unless you’ve seen it for yourself, it is hard to believe. Thanks for sharing.
Just went there today after 10 years. Sadly don’t see It being there 10 years from now, retreating all the way to the icefield.
Yes, it is very sad what is happening. It will be interesting to see it in 10 years. Is it still worth a visit now?
I was with my father at Exit Glacier in 1993. Exit, and the numerous glaciers on the mountain tops across Resurrection Bay from Seward, were magical. I returned in 2012 with a friend. I probably went on for about a week, telling her what she was about to see – about how amazing it is to be that close to a glacier. The first shock is when I realized that the glaciers across Resurrection Bay were gone . As we traveled up the access road to Exit , I felt a visceral sickness of sorts as I strained to process what I was seeing. It was shocking. I was disoriented by the loss of glacier . When it hit, I felt like I was at the funeral of a close friend. Grief-stricken. In some ways, it’s good to be validated by similar posts and observations.
But I have a very important message for everyone who is reading about the glaciers. I was born and raised in South Florida. I spent many days as a young boy in the 1960s diving the extensive coral reef system along the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys. From Carysfort to Alligator, American Shoals to Sombrero , Looe Key, Sand Key – the Reef system was a beautiful forest with valleys that were 15 to 20 ft deep between coral ridges . I excitedly returned with my family, gushing about the beautiful fish and crystal clear water they were about to see. When I got in the water, I had the same experience that I had at Exit Glacier. Scum and slime covered the grey , dead dull rocky corpses – remains of what was once beautiful crisp vibrant Coral. The water was dirty and the fish were gone. It was mind numbing, and it was extensive
That was 20 years ago. Watch chasing Coral on Netflix.
This is all related to irresponsible human impact. We made the world sick. The fever is subtle but horrific. It’s just the beginning. We must keep fighting.
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