Last week, right after coming from Iceland, we decided to pay a visit to the Aletsch Glacier, in Switzerland. This famous glacier, listed as a Unesco nature heritage site, is the largest and most impressive glacier in the european Alps. With more than 20 km of lenght, this monster advances at the staggering pace of more than 200 m per year, grinding the rock bed along its course and carrying with it tons of rocks. I have been living in Switzerland for more than 9 years now (!), and since I first came here I have paid several visits to this glacier. Unfortunately, here in the Alps the global warming effects are well evident. Sometimes, it is difficul to feel touched by the problems in the Arctic, to think about the gloom fate of the polar bear and things like this…These realities tend to be out of our reality. As far away as these effects are, we tend to forget we are indeed talking about the same planet…However, going for a walk in the Alps during a tiny period of just 10 years is enough to see the irrefutable proofs of the global warming: These giant monsters are receding at an alarming pace. I still remember where Aletsch reached the bottom of the valley a decade ago…and that gives me the creeps. Even looking at the billboards drawings at the arrival of the telecabin show a different reality to the one we witness today. Any visitor will see represented on those drawings glaciers which do not correspond at all with their present state. Nowadays, even human signs live longer than glaciers. All this seems difficult to believe when you stand close to these giants of ice. They look so impressive and powerful that one has the impression they can withstand anything. And however, they are as fragile as a new born baby.
The other day we decided to go down the valley, and reach the very glacier. At the end of the day, we slept in our tent, set just at a few meters from the gigantic ice pinnacles. As the sun set, I took advantage to take some nice images of intimist views of rusted colourful erratic rocks overlooking the bluish ice in the background. Once the sun had gone, an eery feeling inundated the valley. Glaciers, and most of all Aletsch glacier, are one of the most imposing views one can see on Earth. They are like dancing flames of fire or an aquarium full of colourful fish….so magnetic that one can remain staring at them for hours, drawn by their stunning force and surreal features. Being close to these monsters under the glow of twilight is really something you never forget.
The following day, we decided to go for a stroll along the “banks” of the glacier…not really expecting to find what we found: a gorgeous natural ice cave. Slightly tiny at the entrance, I ventured inside camera in hand, just to discover an amazing corridor full of incredible ice sculptures and inner waterfalls. A striking visual effect was created by the glacial silt covering the floor, as its reddish colour and “dirty” aspect gave place to a stark contrast with the pure and cold blue tones of the ice. At a certain time of the day, the sun pierced the ceiling through one crevasse, filtering down and spotlighting a curious ice wave formation which might have formed as a consequence of water dripping inside the cave. A little waterfall to the left balanced the composition and created a great juxtaposition of elements. As a result, I spent an hour or more taking images of this place, as the light was playing through the ice when clouds moved through the sky, totally absorbed by the magic of the place.
This is a quite different picture…Maybe you like it, maybe not. It is not a litteral image. You will find it difficult (if not impossible without explanation) to realize what is depicted here. And in fact, there is no real need of knowing. This is one of those abstract images, made at the human scale, where the absence of recognisable elements drown the meaning of the picture and leave it at the mercy of the viewer’s imagination. An image of forms, colours, tones…and mystery.
I must reckon that I had a wonderful time there…but leaving the cave, I realized a sad fact. These caves are becoming more and more common, these days. As the melting pace increases, water trickles down the glaciers, creating an increasing number of internal caves. These caves are just alarming signs of the agony of these monsters. They are gigantic scars and wounds through which the glacier bleeds to death. As impressive and powerful as glaciers are, these features remind us their very fragile nature: they are just water, that’s all. In some centuries, if not before, all this water might have changed its state, draining away and filling the rivers and oceans. In some time, if we do not change the course, all which will remain in the valley bottom will be a rubble of morrains, heritage of a glorious past. A sad story, with a happy nuance. We are still on time of adapting our habits to this new situation, we all have still time to adopt a more sustainable way of living. If we take the measures, these giant beauties might thank us for thousands of years to come, with some of the most spectacular natural views to be offered to our eyes on this planet.
Thanks for reading and great light to you all ;-)