Tag Archives: Mt. Slanley

Mountains of the Moon: The Melting Rwenzoris

In 1906, the Duke of Abruzzi – an Italian nobleman known for his expeditions to the world’s most forbidding destinations – trekked into the Mountains of the Moon, the glacier-bound peaks of Uganda’s Rwenzori range, whose snows feed the mighty Nile River.

Vittorio Sella's 1906 shot of Mt. Stanley

Vittorio Sella’s 1906 shot of Mt. Stanley

Abruzzi brought with him Vittorio Sella, a photographer whose prints unveiled one of the most other-worldly places on earth. Among them was this picture of Mt. Stanley, one of the highest peaks in Africa.

A century later, biologists Nate Dappen and Neil Losin have retraced Abruzzi’s steps, on a quest to replicate Sella’s picture of Mt. Stanley – from the exact same position under identical circumstances. In the process, they’ve produced “Snows of the Nile,” a breathtaking short video documentary of the Rwenzoris, with a run time of only 11 minutes. It’s beautiful, engaging, and worth every second.

And in the end – SPOILER ALERT! – they discover that they simply can’t take Sella’s picture today. That’s because in 1906, the Italian photographer had perched his camera on ice hundreds of feet higher in the air than the bare rock that remains today. The shots that they succeed in taking tell the story of virtually every glacier in the world: land ice is melting rapidly; 80% of the Rwenzori glacier mass is already gone; the residual ice won’t last another 20 years — with untold consequences for the Rwenzori ecosystem and the Nile basin.

[We have a personal connection to these beautiful mountains. Missionary doctors Scott and Jennifer Myhre have labored in their shadow for decades, with water engineers Michael and Karen Masso, and even our kids Nathan and Sarah Elwood, currently in medical residency state-side. The Rwenzoris pose a formidable obstacle for any visitors to their home in Bundibugyo, Uganda’s remotest district.]

Spend a few moments, and treat yourself to some amazing footage from a corner of the Creation you’ll almost certainly never see for yourself. And in the bargain, you can’t miss the changes being wrought in these mountains by decisions being made thousands of miles away, as industrial nations continue to use our shared atmosphere as a free and unlimited dumping ground for the soot and smog of the carbon-industrial complex.