Olaf Otto Becker

German, b. 1959

River 2, 07, Position 1, Greenland Icecap, Melting area, Altitude 931m, 2008
Archival pigment print 

Olaf Otto Becker, a photographer-explorer in the tradition of Carleton Watkins, carries a large-format, 8-by-10-inch camera to the Arctic. In River 2, he captures the transformation of Greenland’s ice into rivers. These channels of water, created by rising temperatures and airborne pollutants, crisscross the landscape and undermine the second largest ice shelf in the world (after Antarctica).

During the summers of 2007 and 2008, Becker traversed crevasses and melting ice in search of these fleeting rivers, which he spotted by using NASA satellite imagery. He also visited the research station established by Konrad Steffen, professor of climatology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Steffen contributed an essay to Becker’s book Above Zero (2010), where this photograph appears.

Becker’s photograph makes visible the information provided in a milestone study by an international group of scientists who discovered that Greenland has been losing five times as much ice each year as it did during the 1990s. (This study appeared in the journal Science,¬†November 23, 2012.)