Documenting The Melt Down
In the year 2007, National Geographic nature photographer James Balog and a team of engineers and scientists set out to document glacial retreat, one of the environmental concerns raised by global warming.
The team began installing cameras at glaciers around the world -- in Greenland, Alaska, and Montana, for example -- with the intention of showing how glaciers behave over long periods of time.
For The Record
For several years, the cameras recorded concrete, irrefutable images that clearly document the erosion of our planet's glaciers. The ice is melting at a slow rate, but continually and with significant loss. The glaciers are losing ice, which is not being replenished seasonally.
Using images retrieved from the cameras, Balog produced gripping time-lapse sequences that clearly reveal the effect that climate change is having on glaciers and, by extension, on planet Earth's global environment.
These sequences, as seen in Chasing Ice, along with the film's additional images taken before the remote documentation began and after it was concluded, are alarming, indeed. That glacial retreat is a fact is abundantly clear, and the speed at which it is happening is shocking.
The images are backed up with statistical information. For example, one of the glaciers documented in the film has actually diminished by 1,200 feet over the past twenty years -- that's the size of the Empire State Building, in case you need a well known reference place for comparison.
Chasing Ice takes you to remote places of pristine beauty, places that are neither accessible to or visited by many people. With images from Balog's remote cameras and additional cinematography by Chasing Ice director Jeff Orlowski, Earth's magnificence sprawls exquisitely across the screen, underscoring the need for action to be taken to protect and preserve it.
The film has tension and natural drama, too. The forces of nature are powerful. We see extreme weather. And, extraordinarily, Balog's crew was able to film the calving of a glacier, when a section of ice that was roughly the size of lower Manhattan, broke off from the main body of the glacier, fell into the sea and became a huge free-floating ice berg. This particular calving is the largest ever recorded.
The glaciers and environment are clearly the main characters in Chasing Ice, but Orlowski also spends time profiling James Balog, the inspired and determined primary engineer of the glacial documentation project. Balog is both photographer and scientist, and he's a dedicated naturalist who has been dogged in his determination to reveal the extent of glacial retreat, make known its inherent dangers and convince people to take steps to halt it.
Balog is an environmental hero who forgoes personal comforts, risks life and limbs to complete his work. At one point, shortly after having had knee surgery, he disobeys his doctor's orders to rest and, on crutches, treks onto the ice to check his cameras. Balog has a lot to say about glacial retreat and its effects, and his comments are well-informed and compelling.
The Bottom Line
Even if you are very much a skeptic about global warming and its environmental effects, this beautiful and gripping environmental travelogue will convince you that the dangers are real and that you must help to do something about the situation. The film and its message are particularly timely, as we see more and more weather-related disasters that are impacting people around the globe. Climate change is a real, world wide political issue, and Chasing Ice demands that it be given serious consideration, and that solutions be sought -- while there is still time.
If You Like This Documentary, You May Also Like:
- F.L.O.W.: For Love of Water
- Water Wars: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide
- The Eleventh Hour
- An Inconvenient Truth
- Arctic Tale
- Earth Days
- Title: Chasing Ice
- Director: Jeff Orlowski
- U.S. Theatrical Premiere Date: November 14, 2012
- Running time: 76 minutes
- Parents Guide: Advisory for content
- Distributors: Dogwoof Pictures, National Geographic Channel
- Production: USA
- Locations: France, Italy, Bolivia, Greenland, Canada and Iceland
- Production Company: Diamond Docs
- Distributor for U.S. Broadcast: National Geographic Channel
- Official Trailer
- Official Website