High in the Alps, Giant Blankets Slow a Glacier’s Ice Melt

For 150 years tourists have actually been traveling to the town of Belvédère, high in the Alps of southern Switzerland, for the possibility to stroll inside a glacier. Around 1870, a regional family had the idea of digging a shallow, 100- meter tunnel into the side of the Rhône Glacier, one of Europe’s biggest. Paying visitors might stroll through a frozen grotto straight out of a fairy tale, lit a captivating shade of blue by ice-filtered sunlight.

Glaciers move and ice melts, so at the beginning of every summertime tourist season the tunnel has to be carved once again. In recent years, though, international warming has actually posed a more severe threat to the glacier, as well as to the popular ice grotto; in between 2011 and 2016, the glacier pulled away by about 150 meters. To slow the ice melt, the Carlen family, which has actually handled the grotto since 1988, came up with the concept of covering their part of the glacier with white fleece blankets to reflect the sunlight. A glacier professional informed a BBC press reporter in 2016 that these blankets slow the ice melt by 50 to 70 percent each year between June and September.

German professional photographer Thomas Wrede has actually been photographing the ice grotto given that2017 To him, the desperate efforts to slow the melt with blankets signify the Sisyphean task of correcting the environmental destruction of worldwide warming. “Although the blankets are constantly changed, their scruffy look exposes the excellent futility connected with attempting to stop climate modification,” Wrede says. (The Carlen family isn’t alone in using huge blankets to slow ice melt. Many European ski resorts also utilize them too.)

In spite of the family’s best efforts– for the previous years, the blankets have covered the glacier year-round– the ice grotto might only be around for a couple more years. The Rhône Glacier is simply melting too quickly. “The effort needed to keep the structural integrity of the ice grotto is ever-increasing,” Wrede adds.

Wrede’s photography series documents both the exterior of the glacier, curtained in greyish blankets like a Christo and Jeanne-Claude setup, and the luminescent interior of the grotto, where visitors can see centuries-old ice formations. “As an artist, I have an interest in artificial landscapes, like the built nature of theme parks,” he says. “I like to question the limitations of the natural and the synthetic, what is genuine and what is staged.”

Artifice and nature, grotto and glacier– both are threatened by environment modification. The ice tunnel may just have a few years, however the Rhône Glacier’s days are also numbered. Researchers approximate that two-thirds of the glacial ice in the Alps will melt by 2100


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