The Vanishing Glaciers of Patagonia: 100 Years in Retrospect
by Martin Sessions
Inspiring Publishers

"Wherever mankind occurs in nature, they come like intruders. As such, we arrived at this pristine valley to stay there for the shortest time."

In this exciting and necessary book, readers initially unearth the little-known history of Swedish explorers Nils Pallin and Allan Backman. In 1922, Pallin and Backman accompanied Professor Otto Nordenskjold, a famous explorer and geographer, to some of the most remote parts of South America. During their expedition, the explorers would also visit and explore the terrain of Chile’s Patagonia. As the book concludes, readers join the book’s author on subsequent expeditions to the same area first traversed by the Swedes in 1922. They encounter a landscape constantly in flux due to ever-increasing global temperatures and nearly irreversible climate change. This is an exclusive, firsthand account of climate change’s true consequences on priceless environments whose flora and fauna can never be replaced once they are lost.

Like the memoir Titanic and Other Ships written by RMS Titanic’s second officer Charles Lightoller, the narratives in this book capture a unique time period in global history. Pallin and Backman’s entries depict the dangerous, rudimentary conditions in which early explorers thrived, studied, and survived. Their documentation also reveals the distinctive respect with which these particular explorers entered new territories. These humbling recollections establish nature as the domineering force. Pallin writes, “Life becomes soggy and places the greatest demands on endurance and equanimity.” He also notes, “This depressing impact that the climate generates, in the long run makes you feel like being buried alive.” Pallin’s testimonies regarding the area’s harsh realities remind readers about the improvisation, adaptation, and stamina early exploration required.

The book’s historical and contemporary photographs, however, are the true testament to climate change’s ravages on the Patagonian glaciers. The photographs from the 1922 expedition also provide insight into colorful characters like Captain Merino and provide a visual experience all their own. However, the 1922 photographs of the landscape show a vastly different environment than the more contemporary 2017 ones. In the 2017 photos, a Martian-like landscape is revealed because the glaciers which once covered it have disappeared. Carefully detailed Google Earth maps also expose the area’s dramatic changes. Readers familiar with the drastic environmental changes occurring in the Arctic and Antarctic due to glacial melting and rising seas will see frightening parallels to the scenario unfolding in Patagonia.

For those interested in historical narratives, this book provides a unique insight into frequently overlooked exploration initiatives. After all, Sweden was not, and perhaps still is not, considered a huge contributor to early twentieth-century exploration. Nonetheless, the discoveries made and the documentation gathered and preserved during Professor Otto Nordenskjold’s expedition have proved invaluable to research teams and scientists everywhere. The author’s contributions to the book are carefully woven together with those of the Swedes and provide a distinctive contextual overview of the subject matter. The author's narratives are personal and informative as well. For readers interested in the consequences of unchecked climate change, the book’s scientific elements prove informative and eye-opening. At its core, this book is a critical call for humanity to take action in order to reverse the consequences of its unchecked consumption before it is too late.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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