Photo by Marco Nescher, 2018
Have you heard about Sortebrae-friendships?
Can glaciers of cold and frozen matter create friendships?
Just search on the Internet for “Sortebrae” and you will come across a few hits, mainly references to scientific papers on the ice dynamics of this large East Greenland outlet glacier at 69° northern latitude. But this was the starting point for friendships in the course of my FROZEN LATITUDES book project. Read more about these encounters which I’m very grateful for. Life is always good for surprises.
Marco did visit the glacier in 2018 with a small helicopter in the course of his extraordinary Greenland circumnavigation flight project 2018-19. As a professional photographer his passion became attached to the pure landscapes of the Greenlandic vast scenery, its melting ice sheet and outlet glaciers which he captured during the trips in 2018 and 2019. And that’s where we mentally met long before we became to know each other.
When he started to develop and sort his treasure of truly incredible Greenland photos, he searched for GPS-coordinates and located Sortebrae on Google Maps. Researching further he came across my photographic book project FROZEN LATITUDES where I describe the journey of one of Sortebrae’s side glaciers, which intruded in the 1990-ties into its main ice stream like an elephant-foot shaped lobe. Due to the warming climate especially observed in the last 30 years, the side glacier retreated considerably and was cut-off from Sortebrae, whilst the elephant-foot lobe started an amazing downstream journey. Being heavily distorted by the enormous forces of the ice stream it nevertheless preserved all its surface moraine structures – what a wonderful picture for life! Currently, it is gradually spilled out into the East Greenlandic Sea and a very visual proof of the warming climate. In a few more years to come all of the elephant-foot will be gone. But it remains as a spiritual bond to weave friendships which we were able to enjoy this summer during our visit to Liechtenstein, with lots of discussions, night long experience exchanges as well as the chance to present my FROZEN LATITUDES project to the photographic community of Liechtenstein’s “Spektral” photo club.
Marco’s home is decorated with the best prints of his Iceland areal photos capturing volcanic patterns, fractal dendritic rivers flowing out into the sea and the eruptions at Holuhraun in 2014.
Our time in Liechtenstein flew away with nice trips into the country’s mountains and inspiring discussions for possible joint future activities.
Not too far away, another Sortebrae-type of friendship began to grow this Spring: Nidfurn in the Swiss county of Glarus is the house of Fridolin Walcher, a renown Swiss photography artist. I came across his work when Barbara, another important supporter of my FROZEN LATITUDES project, told me about Fridolin, who was one of the two expedition artists of the Swiss multi-discipline Leister scientific expedition 2018. They explored among others the very northwestern corner of Greenland where Fridolin was able to fly over Inglefield land and the famous Petermann glacier, one of the few main outlet glaciers of the Greenlandic ice sheet. It heavily thaws due to global warming at 81° northern latitude, where one would expect frozen landscapes and ice all year round rather than enormous surface melt streams cutting during summer deeply into the ice and carrying ancient water out into the sea.
We were able to visit Fridolin in his art studio in Linthal in Summer 2020 where we could dive into his realm of photos giving always a critical perspective on what humans can do to nature, from the local Swiss energy dam projects, diminishing glaciers of the Swiss Alps over Brazilian and south Asian forests to the frozen latitudes of Greenland.
During the Greenland expedition in 2018, Fridolin also met with the world famous Swiss climate and glacier scientist Konrad Steffen at Swiss Camp on the Greenland inland ice, where climate change is quantified since 1990: Here at 1100 m a.s.l., right in the desert of the ice sheet, temperatures have increased since then by 2°C giving rise to the world sea levels by 1 mm per year. I was shocked when I read one week after we returned from Glarus that Konrad Steffen died 8th August 2020 near Swiss Camp in a water filled crevasse during scientific observations.
“Do we believe that the quality of our lives is improved tenfold by going ten times faster, or hearing and doing ten times as much every day? If the sensations reach us ten times faster, their impression will diminish tenfold, with the result that we will be the poorer the hastier we live.”
Alfred de Quervain
Swiss Polar Explorer crossing Greenland’s ice sheet 1912 as second person after Nansen.