March 24, 2014

Extreme Ice Survey

Whether we consciously engage them or not, we all, to a degree, possess certain notions about “normalcy.” For example, 98.6 F is generally considered to be “normal” human body temperature. Sleeping in on Saturday mornings is considered “normal.”  And these beliefs about what constitutes “normal” extend to things like weather, and tend to be informed by experiences from previous years. With the onset of climate change, however, these notions of “normal” weather are now regularly challenged, as temperatures lunge from one extreme to the other  and “epic” winter storms work their way towards us weekly.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska - James Balog

In monitoring the toll that climate change is exacting globally, there are also certain established notions of normalcy, otherwise known as “baselines,” people turn to when assessing damage or the extent of change.

One project aims to establish such a baseline through the constant photographing of glaciers around the world, while serving the dual purpose of creating a memory of a rapidly and permanently changing landscape. The Extreme Ice Survey, founded in 2007 by nature photojournalist and extreme adventurer James Balog, has scaled harsh terrain in order to mount 28 cameras far above 13 glaciers around the world in places of high scientific value, such as Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalaya, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains (U.S.), South America and Antarctica.

Ilulissat Isfjord, Greenland - James Balog

The Extreme Ice Survey was the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary feature film “Chasing Ice” (2012), which chronicled the EIS team’s expedition to document rapid glacial melt in the Arctic Circle, and, in fact, captured the largest glacial ice break-up (calving) ever recorded on film; roughly 7.4 cubic km of ice breaking away and tumbling off of the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland. The highly anticipated sequel “Chasing Ice II,” which follows Mr. Balog’s journey to Antarctica is expected in the next few years.

So, what is the take-away message of such an extreme project? In a recent interview with ABC News, Mr. Balog likens glacial melt and calving to “seeing, touching, hearing, and feeling climate change in action. It’s happening right now, all around us,” he declares. 

November 16, 2011


Mathias Kessler is our next artist who creates photographs, video art, and installations, often featuring large-scale representations of natural landscapes. His work is particularly ambitious due to the challenges of traveling to extremely remote areas, transporting large amounts of equipment, and capturing high-quality images that can be printed in large or panorama formats. He has some incredible stories about traveling to untouched landscapes, “disaster tourism,” and modern-day exploring. His thoughts about the relationship of science to these landscapes and capturing all of these ideas in his art are not to be missed.

He was born in Austria and currently lives and works in New York. Recent solo shows have been exhibited at the National Museum for Photography in Russia, GL Holtegaard Museum in Denmark, and the Volta Art Fair in New York.
For more about his projects, please visit​index.html





Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!

October 28, 2011

Arguing about Greenland

Hola, my friends.

In my work I see certain effects of climate change on the biodiversity.  But those who work with glaciers, ice, and snow see a very different ones.  An American colleague sent me a link to a story in the New York Times I find amusing…

Britain’s Comprehensive Atlas of the World came out with a new edition, in which Greenland looks as though it has lost about 15 percent of its ice since 1999, with large portions of the coast ice-free.

The map that made the scientists go -- how do you say? Ballistic.

Climate scientists and glaciologists went crazy about it, saying the map is “a fiasco” — that the actual percentage is more like one-tenth of 1 percent, and that nobody from the atlas consulted with the actual experts on this subject. The publishers fired back that they’re sticking by the data, but then investigation revealed “mistakes were made” in the creation of the map.  So they’re making a new map of Greenland that will “more effectively” represent the reality.

I never thought I would hear scientists are saying climate change isn’t as bad as it looks…  or that a map would look worse than reality!

Reminds me of the movie called The Dead Zone, in which the marvelous actor Christopher Walken yells, “The ice is gonna break!” But in reverse.  “The ice is still very solid and very much there!”  Hehe.


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