Conquering the majority of glaciers on the planet is a serious undertaking, one that will require a fair amount of resources, planning, lots of moving pieces and, of course, some rather serious flying. Here is a rough idea of the order of events as envisaged from early 2021.
Immediate Term (2021)
- Fundraising. It is important to note that, with the support of the Founder, the Global Glacier Initiative will proceed forward with its plan, regardless of external funding. The difference that assistance from donors makes is the speed and total quantity of glaciers to be photographed. The process has been underway, on a personal level, for five years as of the inception of the Initiative.
- Interactive Map. Buildout of an interactive map is in the research phase, where it is intended to connect existing WordPress plugins to Google Maps in satellite mode, with custom programming to allow automatic geo-tagging, labelling, and descriptions based on an import process from metadata encoded in images. The interactive map forms one of the primary means to disseminate glacier images to the public.
- Climate science outreach. While the Founder is a prolific author, sometimes glaciers can better be explained by the scientists who research them. As outreach is a significant part of our mission, we’ll be building out the content generation machine to better explain photographic results to the public.
- Alps. As of early 2021, roughly 50% of the glaciers of the Alps have been photographed from the air. The next phase aims to increase that number greatly by continuing to explore the Italian, Austrian, southern French, and eastern Swiss Alps.
Near Term (2021-2023)
- North American base. Extensive research is underway to determine a base location for exploration of the glaciers of North America. From the US Rockies and Cascades north to the Arctic Circle in Alaska, there are years upon years of glaciers to be found over a massive surface area.
- North American aircraft. To reach the glaciers of Mt. Logan, Canada (19,551’), Denali, Alaska (20,310’), and Pico de Orizaba, Mexico (18,491’), we’ll need a Super Cub, so that will be the airplane of choice for basing in North America.
- Norway research. The glaciers of Scandinavia come after the Alps, which requires ground visits to determine the best base to operate out of during limited good weather in the summer. It is anticipated that actual flights will have to span two summer seasons.
- PA-11 Fuel Tank Installation. The current aircraft located in the Alps has a range of 200 miles and 3 hours, due to only one fuel tank. To get to Norway would involve a painful amount of stops. To get to Iceland (after the glaciers of Norway), involves a 295-mile water crossing from the Faroe Islands. A second fuel tank installation would make both possible and involves extensive work to the airframe and some expense.
- North American glaciers. Supposing establishment of a base is successful, a very long and multi-year attack will begin, from south to north.
- Norway glaciers. Commencement of the Scandinavian attack!
Mid Term (2023+)
- New Zealand research. Research for a housing arrangement for flying seasons, as well as the acquisition of a lower powered aircraft for the glaciers of the Southern Alps will begin. Due to New Zealand’s travel ban and low COVID-19 incidence rate during the pandemic, it is presumed that the country will be one of the last to open for normal international travel.
- New Zealand glaciers. New Zealand wins the hearts of many for its glaciers, and other than South America is one of the few places with them in the non-polar Southern Hemisphere. Annual glacier photography capacity can be doubled as summer glacier season in the Southern Hemisphere is opposite that of the Northern.
- Patagonia & South America research. While the Founder speaks Spanish, South America is a complex, rugged, and difficult place to operate, with glaciers spanning from 16,000-foot peaks on the Caribbean slopes of Colombia down to Tierra del Fuego, along with the highest peaks of the Western Hemisphere in between. It is a lot of ground to cover and complements the Southern Hemisphere strategy of doubling annual flights.
- Iceland. Presuming that Norway gets completed, the PA-11 would get moved to Iceland for one or two summers.
- North American glaciers. The process continues.
- The Beast. The Super Cub, with no modifications, can reach 21,300 feet, which is why it works for the highest peaks of Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. It can even knock off the glaciers of Colombia and Ecuador; however, Peru begins to be a problem, with a peak in excess of 22,000 feet, and a higher peak in Chile. Various modifications to the Super Cub propose to increase that ceiling, though it takes tremendous testing, patience, skill acquisition, and tinkering to be able to pull it off. What is more, it has already been suggested that we fly the glaciers of Nepal and India in the Himalayas, which reach up to 29,000 feet! While 25,000 feet would probably be high enough to look upward toward the highest peaks in the world, modifying our North America-based Super Cub in a familiar environment will allow a proving ground to see what we can do in the highest reaches of Peru and South America.
- Local photographers. Depending on funding levels, we would begin to contemplate funding local drone or ground photographers to document glaciers in regions where an American photographing from an airplane would be received poorly (Pakistan, Russia, China, some of the “stans”). All of these places are extremely rugged and at very high altitude.
- Patagonia glaciers. Need we say more?
- Andes glaciers of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Again, need we say more?
- Caucasus Mountains. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and just maybe Russia (we might have to pay someone).
- Himalayas. From the “stans” to India, Nepal, Bhutan (if they’ll allow it), to Mongolia, the glaciers of this range are about as expansive as those of North America. It will take awhile…..