‘Until here and no further.’ You know the kind of sign that holds you back, yet you are curious to know what is behind it? Yet, behind this one, there is nothing. And it does not hold you back. Rather, it provokes curiosity. I try to imagine what once was, and look terrified realising that only emptiness is left.
Willing to walk this journey with me, you can go check out my vlog on the Shrinking glaciers of Franz Jozef as well.
I start walking on the empty river. The gravel stone that once had been covered by water or ice. The long wide lane of grey emptiness, surrounded by lush nature. Waterfalls of the melting glaciers break the silence. I am curious to know what is really going on. Every step I take brings me closer to what once was. Yet, rather than feeling exited, I feel sad and anxious. It is disappearing.
The river meanders through the forest, so it is impossible to really see what lays ahead of us. Only the tops of the mountains are visible. Covered with snow still. It is not until I turn behind the last corner that I figure out what is really going on
I am astonished. The blue-ish white mass of frozen snow lays like a dragon on the mountain. Watching it, guarding it. It is his. The glacier belongs to the mountain as the mountain belongs to the glacier.
All of us just stare at it, try to capture the beauty and the wonder of nature. It looks so powerful in all its silence and peacefulness. The sound of the waterfalls fades out, while the cold air comes in.
Gone in the Wind
This is the Franz Jozef Glacier. It is one of New Zealand’s glaciers that is left. Yet, it is shrinking. All the way up to here must have been once covered with the same ice shield. Yet. It is gone.
Global warming has caused New Zealand’s glaciers to disappear with one third. Only in the last 4 decades. If no action is taken, we will lose it all. The glaciers are a tremendous example of how global warming is destroying our planet. Fast and furious.
Rise and Fall
Some might think glaciers don’t matter, and ice mass isn’t really a thing. Yet, it is. These are the consequences of a world without ice:
First of all, we will lose the glaciers itself, which are unique natural phenomenon that once lost are difficult to recover. Glaciers built up year after year by layers of snow falling one on another, causing as much pressure on the previous layer that they get compressed and stick all together. The frozen mass stays and provides the perfect home base for a new layer of snow to fall the year after, which strengthens the glacier, that is now a pallet of ice rather than snow, all together.
Every year a bit of the glacier will melt during summertime, providing fresh water to run via the waterfalls into the rivers, which providers drinking water and, in some cases, even hydro-energy to the human settlements around it. This natural loss is compensated by the yearly snowfall during winter that ‘fills the glacier again for the next summer’.
Huge Water Reservoir
Yet, due to global warming, this natural process is disrupted. While at one hand snowfall decreases during winter, summer temperatures increase. This causes at one hand less snow to be fall, while more snow is melting every year. The long-term result: a shrinking glacier.
A shrinking glacier does not only mean the loss of the glacier itself, but as well of all animals and specific plants living around it, as well as the loss of an important resource for drinking water for the humans living around it. As a matter of fact, glaciers are important drink water reservoirs which are now about to disappear.
In addition, since the mass starts melting faster and does no longer provide a solid bottom for the new snow layers to come, there might be an increased risk of avalanches. Moreover, the entire ice sheets might slide off and cause landslides, posing an immediate threat to its surroundings.
So, watching this marvel of nature in front of me, I know we have to put a halt at climate change, because here is the living example of how it has affected us already and how it will affect us in the coming decades.
There is no doubt about it that glaciers matter, even though we might not have thought about the complexity and geniality of it.
But have a look yourself at my vlog on the Shrinking glaciers of Franz Jozef, I’m sure you will understand.