In the early 20th Century, Swiss aviator and photographer Eduard Spelterini took a series of glass-plate photographs during a trans-alpine gas filled balloon crossing, which today serve as a serendipitous record of glacial retreat. Despite being drawn to the aesthetics of the glacier, Spelterini's main focus in taking these images was the geology of the mountains framing the serpentine Mer de Glace in the Mont Blanc Massif. A century later, his work has been transformed by aerial photographer and digital visualisation researcher Dr Kieran Baxter into detailed 3D models to create a 100 year 'time-lapse.'
We sent Dr Kieran some questions to find out more about the process and the project, referencing this article on the project.
I find this a bit depressing - it seems to me that the Mer de Glace at the beginning of the 20th century was about the same as it was when I first saw it in 1973. I didn't see it at all between 1978 and 1996 - I was mightily puzzled by the "new" route from Montenvers down to the ice. The rate of retreat has only got worse.
Of course I was also mightily puzzled by the price of wine and the fact that a 50 FF note that I had wouldn't buy anything. The bank staff laughed at me!
Glancing at the photos you might think the glacier covers about the same area it did before. Then if you watch the video closely you see that at least 90% of the volume of the lower portion of the glacier is gone.
We see this with our glaciers in the Pacific Northwest of the US as well. Many of them will be lost within my lifetime. It's tragic, really.