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City-sized glacial collapse caught on film


Even with the prevalence of digital capture, it is only every once in a while that we see something entirely unprecedented.

Growing up in the mountains, I always felt like geologic change was real, but not the kind of thing that happened in human time. I was in awe of how glaciers grew and receded, carving the mountains into the seductive shapes that inspires us to learn to ski and climb; but I always believed that I wouldn’t live long enough to really see the changes.

glacier skiing

How wrong I was! Just a decade of working with CMH Heli-Skiing has been enough to see dramatic changes in the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies. During the same time, geologic change seems to be accelerating in many parts of the world, and with the phenomenon reaching beyond the niche circles of skiers and mountaineers, people are aiming cameras and instruments at our planet in new ways.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of this change being captured "on film" is the Chasing Ice project. By using time-lapse methods the team, led by photographer James Balog, set out to capture geologic change in a human time frame.

The results, starting with a National Geographic Magazine assignment in 2005, have received global attention. The project has continued, and with cameras trained on galciers all over the globe, perhaps it is not suprising that something extraordinary would be revealed. Recently, a team of photographers in Greenland captured something that defies all our previous assumptions about geologic change.

While shooting a tongue of glacier that has receded as much in the past ten years as in the previous 100, they stumbled into filming the largest glacier calving that has ever been captured on film. This is not a time-lapse, but instead a city-sized section of glacier falling into the sea in little over an hour:

This video clip is perhaps the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen on film. It is part of the film “Chasing Ice” which is showing in North America and the UK during 2013.

Thankfully, here at CMH Heli-Skiing, we still have a vast wonderland of safe and skiable glaciers positioned right next to epic tree skiing; but I gotta wonder; will my grandkids be able to ski these glaciers too?


Wow. What a great reminder of the power of nature! Thanks for sharing, Topher!
Posted @ Friday, February 01, 2013 12:28 PM by Jason
This is fascinating! Thank you for sharing!
Posted @ Friday, February 01, 2013 6:20 PM by Tracy
Are you sure this is not fake? My mind is blown. At one point it looked exactly like a whale breaching.
Posted @ Saturday, February 02, 2013 3:18 AM by Chris
I am absolutely certain it is not fake. Like a tsunami or an F5 tornado - eventually somebody takes a photo of nature's changes that blows our minds. My mind is blown too.
Posted @ Saturday, February 02, 2013 7:43 AM by topher
What an amazing demonstration of the release of energy from ice into water! The "whale" is a large hunk of clear black ice that had been trapped by the overlying rotted glacial ice; releases and popping back up to the surface. Remember, 90 % of an iceberg stays underwater, so this hunk of ice was likely started out several hundred feet into th ocean before being released to get that nice "Pop". Increable footage. Imagine what happened 10,000 years ago during deglaciation of the North American continent!
Posted @ Saturday, February 02, 2013 10:32 PM by Rob
I think most of you are blinded thats called global warming. Look at the comparison from the last ten years with that of the last one hundred. Almost twice the ice has melted in one tenth of the time.
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 11:42 AM by Christopher wolfe
If you're worried about whether your kids will be able to ski glaciers such as these, have you thought about the carbon footprint of your helicopters flying in to allow you to ski is such remote areas>
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 3:21 PM by MIke B
So ironic it's sad. Lets all jump on a jet and fly to a place to be picked up by a helicopter and have some nice turns. Global warming is caused by someone other than me. I'm entitled to this luxury.
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 4:20 PM by Matt Provencal
Skiing an isolated fjord glacier in Greenland on rotten crevasses ice like the one shown in the video is probably out of the question for everyone. Skiing heli pristine pow in the Selkirks, Purcell, and Rocky Mountains will hopefully still be around for our Grandchildren. Large cities on deltas will need bigger dikes though. Glacial terrain in the mountains will likely have receded some more but there will remain major glacial ice fields in the mountains of the north. In fact, it's a proven fact that over the longer period of time, I mean, millions of years, the earth is cooling. So, the bigger problem for our descendants will likely be how to adapt to a major glacial advance following "global warming" . Once again Topher, thanks for a magnificent video posting!
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 4:24 PM by Rob
This is brutal. CMH is the problem; the frivolous reason why global warming and glacial melting is occurring at unprecedented rates. Get out of your helicopters and WAKE UP!
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 5:58 PM by Brean Bolster
This is totally fake and just more global warming hoax stuff from the leftards and greenies. Why does anyone care about a bunch of ice?
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 7:37 PM by Christian Bill
if you think Heli's are the problem with global warming your intelligence is equal to Christian Bill...who probably thinks a big man in the sky created all we have and will fix our 'problems' as well...
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 10:41 PM by scott
Powerful! How stop ice melting inpractical terms. I walk & take transit mostly. 
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 3:13 AM by Chris
Yep, we're all gonna die... And we deserve it. In the meantime, climb more and ski less.
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 7:41 AM by Jason
This is a great conversation to have. We should have similar discussions about every aspect of our lives, from our driving habits to our homes as well as our recreation. CMH is one of the only helicopter skiing companies which encourages the conversation about climate change. 
In 2009, the American average per person carbon emissions per year was almost 18 metric tonnes; Canadians 16 metric tonnes; world average 4.5 metric tonnes. CMH carbon emissions are reported in our annual Sustainability Report and in 2011 was 10,872 metric tonnes. So CMH Heli-Skiing has the same annual carbon footprint as 604 Americans, 679 Canadians, or 2416 humans on the world average. 
We’re the only heli-ski company which reports its carbon foot-print every year (we’re working on our next sustainability report as we speak), and is doing things to make a difference. CMH’s annual carbon emissions decreased 11.5% from 2008 to 2011. For more information on CMH sustainability efforts, including micro-hydro power, visit these blogs: 
Tourism is a business sector which can be an agent for change because of its ability to allow people to think in new ways, and to better understand each other … rather than denigrating one form of tourism or activity relative to another, how about we look at making changes for the better in every aspect of our lives? 
And the value of helping people falling love with, and respect, our planet? Hard to put a number on that…  
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 9:47 AM by topher
Well said Topher!
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 11:03 AM by Cary P
Frightening! Beyond powerful! Awesome is the truest sense of the word.
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 12:58 PM by Kathryn
I am a glaciologist at the University of Utah who researches the future of Alaska glaciers. I am personal friends with some of the makers of Chasing Ice, and I can not only assure you it is real, I can say that I have personally seen similar events (though not that crazy) and some closer to home than you may think.  
Massive iceberg calving like this has just recently occurred on the Skikine icefield in SE AK. On one glacier, the surface dropped 600 ft in two years because of calving icebergs! Luckily that wasn't a good spot for skiing...  
But throughout BC, our best estimates are that glaciers will SHRINK BY AT LEAST HALF, if not, a lot more (worst but unlikely case: 90% gone) by 2100. Gulp...Obviously the smaller ones, (the ones that usually make good skiing) will go first. This is from new work by widely respected researchers at UBC in Vancouver. So cherish those turns on glaciers because they will not be around forever :( 
Link to BC glacier work:  
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 4:14 PM by Evan Burgess
Why does he use words like "terrifying" and "horror" etc? He wasn't standing on it. Sounds suspiciously liberal (the ice is dying!)
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 4:20 PM by Boog
Whomever actually doubts the existence of this happening, blaming it on 'hoax' and 'leftards' and 'greenies,' had better get their head out of their proverbial ass real soon. YOU are one of the reasons why this planet is caving in on itself so quickly, and if you sincerely think this isn't an issue or a reality feel free to consider yourself detrimental to the progression of our society... everyone who's waking already does.
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 6:51 PM by KL Beaudry
Thanks for the feedback Topher. A very complex topic and I look forward to all of us pitching in to make a difference. I will read the blogs as outlilned. 
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 8:02 PM by Nancy
LOOOL @ Christian Bill"who cares about some ice, just another global warming hoax by the leavies and greenies" Inconsiderate pea brain. Will it effect you? No. Will it affect your descendants? Yes. Guess as long as it doesnt happen in your lifetime it doesnt matter right? Narcissistic idiot. Drill the oil! pump the gas! full speed ahead! Its people like you that are the problem.
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 9:50 PM by Jimmy Clark
If there is impact on the world by our actions I would have to say that the impact of a few helicopters are of a single water drop to an ocean. Your focus of criticism should be directed at the combined total of humanity, and it's ever increasing impact on the earth. Translation: What YOU do every day of your life. There is an old saying that goes: "Focus more on the things you can control, and less on the things you can't" Enjoy life now. "Change is inevitable to struggle is an option"  
So. In summation 
Go heli-skiing it is something you must do before you die. The earth won't care. Trust me...
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 11:25 PM by jason h
ha ha ha ha ha love the long winded justification for those who want to burn 100 times their share of fossil fuels for entertainment while still "careing deeply about the environment" Either care or don't but save your double speak for the next movie version of 1984
Posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 11:57 PM by mark larson
Hellisking sounds fun. I've climbed tucker mans raven in NH. No machines. That ill never forget.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 6:02 AM by David
I'd love to see images of the waves that were generated as they hit the surrounding shores. This kind of reminds me of the story of Lituya Bay Alaska where two boats actually rode out a wave over 100ft high after a land slide event.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:41 AM by Serious
I think China's enormous amount of pollution is a big part of the reason why it is happening so quickly. North America is far from perfect, but we are taking steps to combat and reduce pollution.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 10:36 AM by Jay
The author apparently misses the irony - his complicity in creating climate flying people around to ski??? Air travel is one of the most significant contributors to climate change -- and the easiest one for us to CHANGE. 
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:30 AM by Carolina
I am acutely aware of the irony. That's why I posted this video in the first place. I wrote it while sitting in my fossil fuel heated house and this afternoon I'm going climbing by driving my fossil fuel powered car to the climbing area. Many companies in the outdoor industry realize the irony too - that's why the outdoor industry is one of the global leaders in the push for positive change.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 1:52 PM by topher
love the sad music. 
Ever hear of Milankovitch cycles and Insolation? 
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:04 PM by a bad person
better yet why not research the internet for the 420.000 year ice core data from Vostok station, should be easy enough to find on google. 
at any rate I feel you should pay more taxes for your carbon footprint so we can save the planet. Where do I sign up? I can't wait to save to planet :)
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:09 PM by a bad person
when you locate the Vostok ice core data graph notice the sharp increases in temperature and then the long slow cooling periods.  
the Earth is not in a perfect orbit nor is everything being held in perfect synchronization in the heavens above by God. The theory of "man made" global warming relies upon middle/dark age thinking, and you have to accept that we live in the unchanging harmony of the spheres.  
I liked it better when it was things like USA for Africa and Farm Aid, heck save the whales even! This new save the planet thing comes from some self righteous uninformed and gullible individuals. 
go back to saving Africa or something dude... what's the matter? already tried and failed? so we need something else? 
like George Carlin said; the Earth will shake us off like a bad case of the fleas if she wanted to. (you can search that clip on youtube haha)
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:21 PM by a bad person
Anyine who thinks that the sporadic spikes from glacial ages are anything like this has not been paying attention. When you pump carbon into the atmosphere, it heats the planet up. This is no way controversial, except by American ideologue corporate tools. We are doing this, people. This is on our hands and every reputable scientist will tell you so.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:33 PM by Sound Mind
Ha Ha "shake us off like a bad case of the fleas" Wisdom (or truth)from a very funny man. Back to the video... I really liked the "whale breach" I caught myself thinking "uh. huh? whaaat is thattt? whale! like ummm no couldn't be...  
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:33 PM by jason h
Hello Everone, 
I have studied geology over the years and have come to the conclusion that the planet goes through cycles. Archeologist and geologists have discovered that the antartica was tropical at one time because they have discovered prehistoric plants in the rocks. Also, a small minority of people believe that we are the cause of the green house effect too. I don't agree with this group think. If you want to see what the green house effect was like during the prehistoric past.. look towards the study of geology. One has to consider how much ash was released during the volcanic eruptions pertaing to the ring of fire. The earth is a great recorder for these events. One other Idea to consider is studying tree rings too because they show the increase or decrease of water in the water tables. I think that the earth will do what it does and we are the spectators and by-standers who need to realize we are not in control and never will be. Weare all on the mercy of earths ultimate and awsome power.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2:57 PM by Jester
What a fantastic piece of filming. Thank you for sharing it with us. Cheers Kate
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 3:48 PM by Kate E Smith
Receding glaciers don't break off into the ocean, expanding ones do...
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:32 PM by Sean Culligan
"Receding glaciers don't break off into the ocean, expanding ones do..." is not true. Temp. increases could cause existing crevasses further off-shore to deepen/widen. Temp. changes can exacerbate longitudinal stretching, which leads to crevasse formation and increasing size. Increased melting at the waterline can undercut subaerial ice, leading to further collapse...
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 8:41 PM by Kevin Devitt
I really wonder if you see the contradiction here... in one breath there you are, making an income on helicopter-accessed recreation.... in the next breath there you are wondering if your grandkids will enjoy (heli??)skiing on glaciers.  
Do you see the problem??? 
Git away from heli-anything would be a good first step. Go for non-motorized recreation (and moneymaking) instead.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 9:58 PM by L. McLaughlin
Truly non-motorized recreation and work? My home has a motor, so I couldn't work at home. I couldn't get in a car to recreate or go to work. I could go for a walk, but my shoes and clothes were made in China and shipped overseas with a motor, so I'd have to go for a walk naked and barefoot. I'm pretty sure the Chasing Ice crew who filmed this used aircraft to get to Greenland too...  
Yes, I see the problem, but I'm pretty sure that my working with a company like CMH Heli-Skiing who has won national awards for sustainable tourism is doing more good than harm.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 05, 2013 10:46 PM by topher
in 1:59 is it a whale frozen inside the ice? there could be some ancient animals frozen inside that could bring us more information about animals.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 2:25 AM by vnvnvm
Ah, and out come the global warming freaks.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 11:27 AM by Taggart Snyder
If the glaciers disappear, skiing will be the last thing on our minds, believe me.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 11:48 AM by Karen
@Sound Mind - "When you pumnp carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it heats the planet up" - You're wrong, completely wrong, and it's this type of dangerous thinking that ends in trouble! I am a greenie, but even I can't dispute the Vostok Ice Core samples, which have categorically shown that global temperatures rise FIRST, and between 800 and 1300 years later, CO2 goes up. You can't argue with the data. 
Add to that the fact that EVERY planet in our solar system is exhibiting global warming to within 10% of our own, and it all points to the inescapable conclusion that we need to cool the SUN, not the earth! Perhaps we'd better get an Avaaz! "48 hours to cool the Sun!"
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 12:18 PM by Nicko
A good reason to stop Heli-ing. You are destroying the same thing you love. Get off your ass and tour.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 12:28 PM by Paul G
"This is totally fake and just more global warming hoax stuff from the leftards and greenies. Why does anyone care about a bunch of ice? 
Posted @ Sunday, February 03, 2013 7:37 PM by Christian Bill" 
Blinding stupidity for all the world to see. I bet your mother is so proud.
Posted @ Thursday, February 07, 2013 8:08 AM by Jeremiah
Yeah right. How much CO2 and more does a heli-ski tour spit into the atmosphere. A bit ironical really...
Posted @ Thursday, February 07, 2013 9:59 AM by Julien Sénamaud
Not to be redundant, all I can say is "Amazing" - but not surprising in face of the scientific knowledge that the climate is changing! Disbelievers - please note! 
Posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 7:15 PM by Betty Benson
That calving video from "Chasing Ice" is just astounding. I wonder how long the field team waited on site with cameras to capture that event. Beautiful work.
Posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 8:04 PM by Steven Jepsen
I do believe that global warming is at work here, but I also feel that our world is ever changing just naturally anyways. The earth changes just as people do. People who are so ignorant of it probably do not even live close to it. Open your eyes. 
On a more positive note, I give my koodoos to the men who spent many days effort filming this, it would definitely be harder than trying to film an attacking lion in the Serengeti. You guys have such patience. Can't wait to see more.
Posted @ Sunday, February 10, 2013 9:29 PM by Prosh
It's silly to talk of "climate change" and "global warming" solutions with our population control. 
A thinking person understands that your children, and their subsequent ancestors, via population growth will do more damage in the long run then small group of heli-skiers!!! 
Even if we get rid of everything fuel burning. And we don't control population growth. We are still eventually going to run out of farming land? No?
Posted @ Monday, February 11, 2013 1:21 PM by Joe Questions
Just love the fascination with global warming! Totally misses the point. The problem with our planet is that we are all addicted to the Infinite Growth Paradigm, and yet we live on a FINITE planet. See the problem? Right there? It doesn't really matter much about who or what caused any climate weirding, that will not make a difference to the fact that our powerful industrial age is about to come to a grinding halt because we have run out of energy (and if you believe the spin put out by all those with vested interest in the market economy, you will disagree, but that isn't going to stop the reality).  
When you factor in the mathematics of EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested), and the Exponential factor, and add to that the Laws of Thermodynamics, then you soon realise we have about five years, tops, to get ready for a life without the comfort of cheap easy oil... think that through, with all its implications, and it makes everything else pale in comparison. 
Then if you want to get even more drastic about it, think of the fallout from climate weirding, and how we are going to deal with all those industrial wastelands that we cannot afford to maintain (like spent fuel rod pools), and you can see the sort of world we are leaving for our kids. 
Personally I found this video very interesting and a reminder of the sheer force of nature - and everyone should get off the back of the guy who posted it - we ALL live in comfort thanks to the gift of a few million years of sunlight that we have gobbled up in just a couple of hundred years. We will soon, however, have to find new ways of living... suggest lifeboating your community... learn to enjoy the simple things in life, and get to planting now.
Posted @ Friday, February 15, 2013 1:34 AM by Byndy Stork
This is amazing, thanks for posting, I can share with so many, Amazing what a show the good Lord puts on for us.....
Posted @ Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:46 AM by blanche
Thank you for bringing this to us -we often talk of man's inhumanity to his fellow man but this accelerated glacial creep horror is the result of man's callous disregard to the very environment that sustains human life.
Posted @ Friday, March 01, 2013 9:43 AM by Cecil Reddy
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