In pursuit of the vanishing ice sheets


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The Independent Online

The last time Hollywood got this excited about climate change, Al Gore was picking up an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. Six years later, an unlikely new eco-warrior is winning plaudits: a 60-year-old nature photographer.

When James Balog first set off on an Arctic expedition in 2006 for National Geographic, he realised it was a "scouting mission" for something much bigger. This was to be Chasing Ice, an Oscar-nominated documentary using time-lapse photography to showcase the disappearance of the world's glaciers, to be released in cinemas this week.

"I never thought this film would get done at all," Balog told The Independent on Sunday. "I always thought, if it did get made, it would be shown in the basements of universities, not around the world."

The photographer and his team set up the Extreme Ice Survey five years ago. He and his team battled with some of the harshest conditions on Earth to document the changing landscape in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska, which the film explains as the consequence of climate change.

The composite images, which are made up of still photographs taken every hour, show how the glaciers have shrunk or, in some instances, completely disappeared, over three years. Balog, who admits he used to be a "sceptic", said he was "stunned" by what he saw.

The survey is ongoing, and there are now 34 cameras spanning 16 glaciers from Canada to Nepal. "It was only meant to last three years, but I've realised we can't ever stop; the historical monument we are creating is too substantial," he said. "Ice is the place where climate change is made manifest."