Icemeltland park (2020)
Imagine you are on a holiday and you see a once in a life time event. Not only because you may not be able to see it again but also because what you see may not exist after the event. Icemeltland Park (2020) is a documentary that takes us to such an “amusement park” that is distributed across the world.
What do you get to see and experience in this “amusement park”? Glacier calving. These are locations around the world where glaciers are melting or breaking away. During this 40-minute documentary, people visit these places, take videos of glacier calving and share them online. We hear expressions of joy in the background as the landslides result in massive masses of ice crashing into the ocean. People feel lucky to have been in the moment where one of these glaciers broke away. At least one of these “lucky ones” recognized the problem and exclaimed, “Scheiße”.
That momentary joy of being able to see glacier calving and having “got it all in video”. What does it mean? Some of these events have resulted in massive tsunamis. A landslide into Taan Fiord, Alaska resulted in a tsunami with a maximum height of 193 metres. For some context, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami had a maximum height of 51 metres.
When we think of tsunami, we think that a huge volume of water has been displaced by the force applied by an earthquake. That landslides are a source of tsunamis is not often spoken about. In fact, 10 out of the 14 tsunamis in the past century that were at least 50 metres high resulted from landslides into fjords or lakes in glaciated mountains1.
The increasing frequency of tsunamis due to glacier calving are an indirect effect of climate change. Another documentary Chasing Ice (2012) captured a piece of glacier in Greenland (of the size of Lower Manhattan) break away and it effectively conveyed one of the effects of climate change.
As much as Icemeltland Park shows glacial calving, it places attention on the role of humans and our reaction to our environment. Can we see beyond the fleeting joy? Can we do more than capturing videos and sharing them on social media?
Higman, B., Shugar, D.H., Stark, C.P. et al. The 2015 landslide and tsunami in Taan Fiord, Alaska. Sci Rep 8, 12993 (2018). ↩︎