Camp Two on the saddle between Mount Logan and King Peak, with the route’s notorious icefall and Queen Peak in the background. (Photo: Zac Robinson)
RCGS Fellow Zac Robinson led the repeat photography project on the expedition. Repeat photography involves positioning a camera and taking a photo from the identical location as a historic one. It’s a simple yet powerful way to view the same place at different times.
Throughout the 14-day journey up King Trench, Robinson took photos from the same locations as those taken in the 1925 expedition. And when they arrived at the summit, he attempted to recreate the iconic panoramic view originally shot by Swiss mountaineer André Roch in 1950. As a historian, it was just as important to Robinson to capture the spirit of the mountain’s early explorers as it was to document a century’s worth of ecological change.
“It was like climbing with ghosts. Surrounding us on the landscape were layers of not just rock and ice, but of past stories and images,” he says. “Mount Logan is an iconic Canadian peak. And because we had access to many of these past texts and images, the place was ripe for a repeat photography project.”
The repeat photos don’t just tell the incredible stories of 100 years of exploration, they tell the story of Mount Logan’s environment and climate — one that’s about change, according to Robinson.
“Mountains are sentinels for change, signposts for what’s now occurring on our warming earth. And if you can show people that change in places that are meaningful to them, it can be a very motivating revelation.”
While photos vividly illustrate a century of change, uncovering the secrets of the North Pacific’s climate long ago requires something much more difficult to obtain: ice cores.
Ice cores contain heaps of information. From temperature to atmospheric chemistry, and volcanic eruptions to forest fire frequency, they can tell scientists a lot about what the planet looked like thousands of years ago.
For RCGS Fellow and glaciologist Alison Criscitiello, there’s no better place to drill an ice core than Mount Logan. That’s because she says it likely contains the oldest non-polar Arctic glacier ice in the world.
“It’s very likely that the longest North Pacific paleoclimate record — the longest record that we have of the region’s environmental history outside of the polar regions — is sitting up on Logan’s summit plateau,” she says.
“The ice core from Logan will contain records of past North Pacific climate variability extending beyond the Holocene — that’s something that can’t necessarily be captured by a Canadian high Arctic core that’s farther north, or an Antarctic core.”
The team spent three days conducting a ground-penetrating radar survey of the summit plateau with equipment flown in by helicopter. The radar data they collected will be used to determine an ideal drilling spot. Criscitiello estimates that the ice core to be obtained will be at least 200 metres in length and contain a climate record going back roughly 30,000 years, before the Holocene.