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The Planet Ice Project

Introduction to the Planet Ice Blog
By James Martin - January 19th, 2007

Writer and photographer James Martin, author with Mark Twight of Extreme Alpinism, has turned his attention to the vanishing ice of planet Earth. Embarking on a new book, Planet Ice, Martin will blog exclusively for over the next two years as he visits the polar regions, the last of the Equatorial glaciers, and the ice of more temperate mountains, to document how they show, all too clearly, the devestating results of global climate change.


These articles follow the progress of the Planet Ice project, which consists of a book of photographs and essays and a related touring exhibition examining ice at the poles, in the mountains, and on the Equator. This project will take me to the Mountains of the Moon, the Alps, the Andes, the Himalaya, Greenland, Iceland, and the polar ice caps in a little over two years.

The impetus for creating this book is two-fold. First, I always admired Austin Post's black and white photographs in his book, Glacier Ice, written by Ed Lachappelle. It illustrated the many forms ice takes as it works on the surface of the earth. I envisioned a color version of Post's seminal work, with a more abstract, less didactic point of view.

Second, I visited the Columbia Icefields in Canada's Jasper National Park some years ago. In 1975 I strapped on my crampons and hiked to a crevasse at the toe of the Athabaska Glacier where a friend and I practiced ice climbing technique for the first time. The next day we climbed the 1,800 foot North Face of Athabaska with miserable gear and next to no skill. Upon my return, I found the place I learned to ice climb was now gravel, with the ice hundreds of feet up the hill. When I learned that the famous ice pitches on the North Face of the Eiger had also ablated into nothingness, it hit me that an important part of the world was vanishing at incredible speed.

Although I had shot glaciers and ice flows in the past, I knew I needed to assemble a critical mass of striking images to persuade a publisher to take on the project. A voyage to Antarctica in 2006 gave me the opportunities I needed.

Ice is a fabulous subject. It features wonderful colors and twists and melts into amazing shapes. In addition to grand landscapes, the images will include details on the surface of glaciers such as olgives (surge ridges), sinuous moraines, surfacial lakes, backlit translucent bergs, the depths of blue crevasses, and neve penitents. The state of planetary ice impacts the lives of people and animals, including those who live amid the ice and those who live where climate change is influenced by the loss of ice at the poles. We are learning that ice affects climate and climate affects ice.

We are following in the footsteps of David Brower's Exhibit Format series of books for the Sierra Club. These books aided in the effort to establish Redwoods and North Cascades national parks and to the abandonment of plans to dam the Colorado River, which would have flooded of part of the Grand Canyon. We hope that this project will increase public awareness and nudge opinion toward acting responsibly. While the book aims to rouse public opinion, it also will celebrate the beauty we still possess and the wonder of life persisting in harshest corners of the planet.

Writers who are contributing essays to Planet Ice include:

  • Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor equipment company Patagonia, is one of the pioneers of big wall and ice climbing and the author of Climbing Ice, the book that introduced modern ice climbing technique to America.
  • Gretel Ehrlich is the author of This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland, The Future of Ice, and The Solace of Open Places. She has written dozens of articles for national magazines.
  • Dr. Richard Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Two Mile Time Machine: ice cores, abrupt climate change and our future. He chaired the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council panel on Abrupt Climate Change with yielded Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises (National Academy Press) He participated in the Ice Core Working Group, West Antarctic Ice Sheet and West Antarctic Ice Cores Projects.
  • Dr. Ian Stirling is a celebrated polar bear, seal, and marine ecosystem researcher with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Adjunct Professor of Zoology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and the author of Polar Bears (University of Michigan Press), Bears: a complete guide to every species (HarperCollins), and numerous papers.
  • Dr. Gino Casassa's crowded resume includes his work as head of the Glaciology and Climate Change Laboratory at Chile's Center for Scientific Studies and participant in the International Polar Year. Currently, he is a member of the Steering Committee of the Programme on Antarctica and the Global Climate System (AGCS) of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) - International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), member of the Scientific Steering Group of the Project Climate and Cryosphere (CLiC) of World Climate Research Project (WCRP) and SCAR, and Lead Coordinating Author of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Gino is also an alpine guide with many first ascents to his credit.

Make a tax deductible donation to Planet Ice Project

The cost of a project of this scale exceeds the resources of any one publisher. To fund Planet Ice, The Mountaineers Foundation has formed a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization to accept and distribute donations. If you are interested in donating or have a query, contact:

The Mountaineers Foundation
1001 Klickitat Way, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98134


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