David Breashears & Edward O. Wheeler


West Rongbuk Glacier, 227°59ʹ17ʺN, 86°55 ʹ31 ʺE ;

Edward O. Wheeler, Canadian, 1890-1962; black-and-white photograph, 1921, Royal Geographical Society, London

David Breashears, American, b. 1955; color photograph, 2008

Location: Northern Slope of Mount Everest, 29,028 ft. (8,847.7 m) Tibet, China
Range: Mahalangur Himal
Elevation of glacier: 17,300–20,341 ft. (5,273–6,200 m)
Average vertical ice loss: 341 ft. (104 m), 1921–2008

David Breashears has personally experienced climate change. While preparing for expeditions to Mount Everest and reaching its summit five times over the course of thirty years, he became intimate with the landscape and region’s culture. His experience led him to direct the IMAX documentary Everest (1998), in which the artist recorded the first 360-degree view of the mountain from its summit.

Making a commitment to document vanishing Himalayan glaciers, Breashears organized the Glacier Research Imaging Project, which “retraced the steps of some of the world’s greatest mountain photographers. . . over the past 110 years across the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau.”

Breashears compares his panoramic photograph of West Rongbuk Glacier with the view captured by Edward Oliver Wheeler, who was a member of George Mallory’s first topographical survey of Mount Everest in 1921. The comparison enables the artist to dramatically portray the glacier’s vertical loss of 341 feet (104 m).

Edward Oliver Wheeler was a surveyor, mountaineer, photographer, and president of the Alpine Club of Canada. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Arthur Oliver Wheeler (Canadian, 1860–1945), whose photograph of Athabasca Glacier is included on this site.