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Where The Ice Doesn't Meet The Lake...Anymore02:19
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"Sixteen years ago, people like me visiting that country’s second largest glacier, eating a cookie and sipping coffee, would see the ice meet the lake." (Bill Littlefield/Only A Game)
"Sixteen years ago, people like me visiting that country’s second largest glacier, eating a cookie and sipping coffee, would see the ice meet the lake." (Bill Littlefield/Only A Game)
This article is more than 4 years old.

I’ll start with a hike, because we’re a sports program, and hiking, sports, whatever. Maybe I’ll end with a hike, too. Also I was wearing a baseball cap.

It wasn’t much of a hike, and what there was we could have avoided.

If you want to, you can get off the boat and get right on a bus and be at the glacial lake in a few minutes.

We hiked. Walked, really. It takes maybe 15 minutes. Off to left of the brown dirt road you see forest in lots of shades of green. At one point off to the right, you see a sign that says “Kiss A Moose.” Turn at the sign and walk down a little path, and, having paid a handful of Norwegian kroner, you can get close enough to a penned-up, tired-looking moose to kiss it, if that’s what you want to do.

"You can look across the water, which is impossibly clear, at the Svartisen glacier."

Or you can keep walking up the hill toward the lake. And when you get there a few minutes later, you can have cup of coffee and a Norwegian cookie, and you can look across the water, which is impossibly clear, at the Svartisen glacier. Between the tip of the glacier and the shore of the lake, you’ll see about 20 yards of wet rock.

Bill at the Svartisen glacier. (Courtesy of Bill Littlefield)
Bill at the Svartisen glacier. (Courtesy of Bill Littlefield)

The Svartisen is Norway’s second largest glacier, and it used to be larger. I know that because I asked the guide.

Actually, first I asked him if he spoke English.

“Didn’t you hear me on the bus?” he asked.

“I walked,” I said. “Hiked.”

He shrugged.

“So,” I asked him, “is this glacier receding?”

“Sixteen years ago, it reached the lake,” he said.

Now it falls 20 yards short. Sixteen years ago, it didn’t.

Not 600 years ago. Not 60 years ago. Sixteen.

Look it up, and you’ll learn that the Svartisen glacier still covers about 230 square miles over several municipalities in northern Norway. People used to casually hike not just to it, but on it. That’s not allowed these days. Just to get close to the glacier, you have to have a guide, and you have to cross something called “the danger zone.”

Still, it is no slouch, this glacier. At some points it is hundreds of meters thick.

The guide who told me about the glacier isn’t a scientist. Neither am I. I’m just a guy who had the good fortune to visit Norway recently, and I’m bringing back the news. Sixteen years ago, people like me visiting that country’s second largest glacier, eating a cookie and sipping coffee, would see the ice meet the lake.

Now it’s not like that, which is something to think about when you hike down the dirt road from the lake back to the boat.

This segment aired on October 1, 2016.

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Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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