Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come for us to bow our heads in remembrance of what used to be. OK Glacier is no longer Ok, it is actually, as some would say “not OK” because it is, in fact, no longer a glacier.
Did Iceland lose a glacier?
Well no, we didn’t lose a glacier. One may argue they are a little too large to lose, after all, they are not a set of car keys; however, OKJokull has stopped growing and therefore will soon disappear from the Icelandic Landscape. Oddur Sigurðsson, one of the country’s leading glaciologists declared Okjökull dead because it had become too thin to qualify as a glacier. “A glacier must be thick enough to move by its own weight,” he says.
This is no surprise to those who have lived and worked near the majestic Icelandic glaciers, especially here in the South East part of Iceland. Just to give some context, Breiðamerkurjökull, the glacier on which we operate tours, has seen a study decline since 1890, when it was at its largest. At this point in history, Breiðamerkurjökull has receded over 8km (about 5 miles for those still in the imperial system). The recession of Breiðamerkurjökull is not unique and experts forecast that Iceland’s more than 400 glaciers could all disappear by 2020…but on the upside, with all the forecasted warming, going to a beach in Iceland will actually be a pleasurable experience.
“When people visit the glacier, what they assume they see is the glacier in its permanent state” says Mike Reid, Glacier Guide on Breiðamerkurjökull. “What they see is the glacier during their 4-hour tour. When I come back for the second tour, the glacier has already changed.”
Many guides, including Mike, have seen the glacier melt firsthand and have often had to put in the work on creating a path that pushes farther and farther into the landscape so guests can visit the receding ice.
On August 18, 2019, scientists will be among those who gather for a memorial atop Ok volcano in west-central #Iceland. The deceased being remembered is Okjökull—a once-iconic #glacier that was declared dead in 2014. https://t.co/IbwDha54cB #NASA #Landsat pic.twitter.com/pSFD08UohO
— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) August 12, 2019
Two anthropologists from Rice University were studying Icelandic culture and were surprised that the story of Okjökull didn’t catch on beyond Iceland when it happened. They decided to make a documentary about it, called Not OK. As well they decided to make a monument about its passing.
On 18th of August a group of artists and scientists, as well former president of Ireland and climate activist Mary Robinson went on a trip to bid farewell to OK. On the trip, they also put up a memorial shield that was styled as a “Letter to the future,”
Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you will know if we did it.
415 ppm CO2
Don’t just take our word for it, but take some time to look at the research in the links below.