In what is probably the coolest game of Where’s Waldo ever, David Breashears, through his project GlacierWorks, has released a 2 gigapixel image of Mount Everest and the upper Khumbu valley (see the image here). The picture is interactive, allowing you to zoom in and out, up and down. The resolution is so good you can make out people picking their way through the Khumbu Icefall!
The image is actually 477 pictures spliced together, all taken from a vantage point on the shoulder of Pumori, just above Everest Base Camp. You may remember Breashears from such places as the top of Mount Everest (he was the first American to summit twice and has reached the summit 5 times in total), co-directing the IMAX film Everest, and appearing in Everest: The Death Zone, with Ed Visteurs, where they underwent tests to try to understand the effects of altitude on humans.
Clearly, the mountain has been very good to Breashears, and through GlacierWorks he hopes to help protect this amazing place. From the GlacierWorks website:
GlacierWorks is a non-profit organization that vividly illustrates the changes to Himalayan glaciers through art, science, and adventure. Since 2007, GlacierWorks has undertaken ten expeditions to document the current state of the glaciers, retracing the steps of pioneering mountain photographers in order to capture new images that precisely match the early photographic records. Over the past five years, they have recorded losses and changes to glaciers that are inaccessible to all but the most skilled climbers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I had the privilege of visiting the Khumbu region (as well as neighboring valleys) in May 2012, and I don’t have much trouble seeing what Breashears has fallen in love with. It’s not hard to see the intrinsic value of the region, but it is perhaps more difficult to fathom the amount of water this region provides for one of the poorest countries in the world (GDP per capita of $1 200). If the photographs from GlacierWorks are any indication, there is already a lot less ice than when the region first exploded with tourists and climbers in the day of Hillary and Norgay.
Coincidentally, my supervisor, Dr. Michele Koppes, knows a thing or two about Himalayan glacier change. You can check out her take on the TED website.
If you can get behind the pay-wall, or are lucky enough to have a subscription to Geophysical Research Letters, you may be interested in: