Remembering Ice: A Photographic Journey through Southern Patagonia’s Vanishing Glaciers, Will Hartman, UG '25, Jack Green, UG '24, Michael Salama, UG '24, Byron Zhang UG '23 (2768711)
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field (SPIF) in Argentina and Chile is the second-largest extrapolar ice field in the world and a critical region for understanding the impacts of climate change on alpine and glacial landscapes. Last semester, we identified four key photographs of SPIF glaciers taken in the early 1900s. We successfully located the former photographer’s precise field locations, and, while visiting the region over spring break, were able to achieve near-perfect landscape matches between the old and new photographs. Our comparative photographs demonstrate significant ice loss in striking visual terms. This ice loss has manifested both in glacial retreat and in decreased depth. In some areas, it was difficult to match the current landscape to the archival photos because the melting ice has revealed previously unseen rock formations and consequently living landscapes. Our comparisons make the SPIF’s drastic ice loss immediately apparent in an accessible and emotionally impactful medium. Upon returning to campus, Byron decided to substantially expand his Senior Thesis to include an application of his zero-shot computer vision algorithms to both colorize the archival photographs and perform micro-scale adjustments to our recreations. This project also resulted in a memo on Argentinian climate policy within the broader context of differing national responsibilities for climate change, and an essay on why photography is a unique tool for pursuing climate-centered political and societal changes.