This vista, shot from a vantage point called Sugarloaf, looks down on the lower Paradise Valley and Stevens glaciers, now largely vanished. Above: U.S. Forest Service image from National Archives and Records Administration, Seattle, WA, shot in 1934. Below: The same vista in 2017, from John Marshall and The Nature Conservancy. Photo: USFS / John Marshall / The Nature Conservancy

By Sandi Doughton
21 February 2018

(The Seattle Times) – A series of panoramic photographs taken during the Great Depression is offering a new view of ecological change across the Pacific Northwest, including the dramatic retreat of glaciers on the region’s most iconic peak.

In 1934, when a young Forest Service photographer lugged his 75-pound camera to Anvil Rock high on the southern flank of Mount Rainier, the vista he captured showed the curling sweep of the Cowlitz Glacier snaking down the valley below.

When Wenatchee-based photographer John F. Marshall re-created the same image with modern equipment 83 years later, the valley stretched out bare and empty of ice.

“The value of comparative photography is that it tells a much more complete story,” said Marshall, who has been re-creating the so-called Osborne panoramas for several years. “Photography is a very powerful way of explaining long-term change.”

A selection of “before-and-after” glacier scenes will be featured Wednesday evening in a program called “Art Meets Science atop Mount Rainier’s Glaciers” at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. Focused on glacial loss and its consequences, the program is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, which has helped support Marshall’s quest to make the historic photos more widely available and capture contemporary versions. […]

For The Nature Conservancy in Oregon, Marshall scanned and uploaded more than 1,200 images, now available through an online archive.

At Rainier, the high-angle shots offer a different perspective on the well-documented retreat of glaciers, said Paul Kennard, regional geomorphologist for the Park Service.

The 1934 scene from a promontory called Sugarloaf Rock at 7,789 feet on the route to Camp Muir is dominated by the white expanse of the lower Paradise and Stevens glaciers. By 2017, both ice rivers had essentially vanished.

At least four other glaciers also have disappeared, Kennard said, and all of the others are in retreat.

“It’s not just a little trend,” he said. “It has been pretty much doing this nonstop since the mid-1800s.”

The Nisqually Glacier is losing nearly a quarter of a mile in length a year, Kennard added. [more]

See how Mount Rainier glaciers have vanished over time, with this eye-opening photo project



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