Jorge Quinteros at the HPS31 glacier viewpoint holding the photo taken during his expedition in 1955 showing the extent of the melt.
Jorge, 71, crossed the Patagonian icefields with Harold Tilman
and Charles Marriot during the summer of 1955 as part an expedition
sponsored by the London Royal Society.
Jorge recalls the first time he came to the area: "The first
time I came to Patagonia was when I was to cross the HPS31 glacier.
I flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas to meet Tilman. We had never
met before. I went to the harbour, which was almost deserted. All
of a sudden I saw a mast far away. It was Tilman's small cutter
boat. With that boat we did the whole trip through the fjords until
we found a glacier where we could climb up and cross from east to
"It was a nice surprise when Greenpeace called me to come here
after so many years. During all my life, I have done what I really
wanted, which is to be close to the mountains. I am happy to be
here again, in the same place where I was many years ago. The world
needs Greenpeace and the organization does a very valuable
When we invited Jorge to join us on the Arctic Sunrise he was
kind enough to bring his old photographs so we could compare the
size of the glaciers 50 years apart. Sharing the experience of
coming back with him clearly illustrated the drastic environmental
Fifty years on
The Arctic Sunrise anchored in front of the HPS31glacier where
we went ashore to set up camp. The transformation was so acute that
Jorge didn't initially recognise the glacier and was shocked by the
speed of the melt. When he visited the glacier at the age of 21,
previously the ice had covered the area where the base camp was now
"The scene has changed dramatically. It was completely different
- parts have disappeared. The structure of the glacier has changed
in a chaotic way. It's rough and it has retreated so much, I can
hardly believe it. Where the glacier extended 50 years ago, washed
and slippery rocks have now emerged."
Later on he commented: "I couldn't stop looking at the place I
had been so many years ago. One automatically connects this view
with the one seen before. The scenery was different. The glacier
formerly covered the place were we were standing. Now there is an
abyss of 300 or 400 metres."
and some of the crew hiked to where one of his pictures of the
glacier was taken during the first expedition. The viewpoint was
originally chosen as an easy place to take a photo of the glacier,
this time round it was a hard four-hour hike.
"We walked up an almost impenetrable slope, went up on the left
side of the glacier, reached the upper part of that hill and
finally found the place where the first picture was taken," he
recalled. "The glacier had disappeared. If we wanted to walk on top
of the glacier we would have to jump or get there with the
helicopter! It was not possible to reach the glacier walking."
Jorge today lives in Santiago de Chile and works at the
Hydrology Department for the Chilean National Direction of Water.
He would like to change the name of the glacier HPS31 to Tilman, to
honour his friend and companion.
Where has the ice gone?
The icefields in Patagonia are dominated by 'calving' glaciers
which have different dynamics from glaciers that end on land and
melt at their front ends. They are more sensitive to climate change
once pushed out of equilibrium.
The icefields have lost 42 cubic kilometres of ice every year
for the last seven years. That is the equivalent to the volume of
ten thousand large football stadiums the size of Wembley stadium.
Currently the Patagonian icefields contribute to nine percent of
the global sea level rise from mountain glaciers.
Some governments are slowly realising that they must tackle
climate change and are holding a conference on renewable energy in
June. Send them a "Postcard
from Patagonia" to show them you want them to tackle the
problem. We will deliver your card, frozen in a huge block of ice
to the conference.
Don't buy products from the
world's #1 climate criminal, Exxon/Esso.
Patagonian glacier devastation:
Quicktime (4.4 MBytes),
Real (3.2 MBytes),
Windows Media (3.4 MBytes)
online diary from Patagonia in full.
More about the expedition