“I cannot save the glaciers, but I saved part of one.”

I created this book project – photographs, geologic specimens, writing, accordion book, and clamshell box – in response to my experiences exploring a glacial landscape during an artist residency at the Wrangell Mountain Center (inside Wrangell-St Elias National Park), in McCarthy, Alaska, in July - August, 2018.

The box contains scientific specimen bottles filled with actual glacial meltwater, silt, gravel, and rocks from the Root Glacier, as well as an accordion book with images and reflections upon the loss of this (and other) glaciers. The project represents both an attempt to “save” the glacier (by preserving collected samples of water and debris that are lost as run off when the glacier melts), as well as an acknowledgement of the impossibility of doing so. The project is thus a record of time spent on the glacier, and of mourning for what is being lost due to climate change in a warming world. (The complete text and images from the small accordion book inside the box are beneath the gallery of the complete project images below.)

(complete text of enclosed accordion book)

I cannot save the glaciers, but I saved part of one.

While standing on the Root Glacier in Alaska, I want to believe that this place, this ice, will outlast me. 

But the glacier has dropped 300 feet in height in the last century, and has receded half a mile. 

Meltwater runs underfoot: it trickles and pools on the surface. Torrents of glacial river water carve channels deep in the ice below. 

There is a lake with icebergs in it at the toe of the glacier that didn’t exist 30 years ago. 

If you sit quietly on its shore, you might hear a rumble and catch a glimpse of chunks of ice breaking of, carrying with them cascades of rocks and debris as they splash in the water below.  A little bit of glacier lost, a little more all the time. 

I gather rocks and silt and meltwater. I hold these former bits of the glacier close; I carry them home. 

I wish I could put the glacier back together from parts, wish I could restore it to its former self, but perhaps I am only able to preserve evidence of what we’ve lost and what we are continuing to lose.