Seeing Climate Change Up Close and Personal in Alaska

Article by Brittany Bendel

Seeing Climate Change Up Close and Personal in Alaska

When a friend invited me along on their trip to Alaska, I knew I couldn’t turn down the trip of a lifetime. Little did I know that this would be a pivotal experience in more ways than one. I grew up imagining Alaska as a grandiose landscape — a true preservation of the wild elements that seemed so foreign and exotic to me as a New Englander. However, I didn’t realize that I would soon discover all the ways in which this area was in a gradual process of decay that continues to accelerate.

Experiencing Global Warming Firsthand

Climate change is something we know is affecting us here in New England. Heck, I even experienced a day of climbing in October when the crags were over 80 degrees. But here in New England, it's easy to look past and forget about, since it doesn’t impact our daily lives as much as it does for those in Alaska. On my trip, I couldn’t hide behind the trope of “ignorance is bliss.” Nor could I ignore the signs of a changing landscape or disregard the comments from the locals who shared how drastically the area is changing, and how that has affected their lives at work and at home. I feel lucky to have seen Alaska and these beautiful glaciers as they are now before they diminish further. I have never felt more privileged than on this trip where I had a friend doing research in Alaska who was willing to share the connections he made with the people who helped make this trip possible.

Flying above a glacial river.

Adventuring in Alaska’s Changing Landscape

My adventure began when I took a floatplane to the base of Wosnesenski Glacier, a trip that may not be repeatable in the future due to decaying glaciers. We set up camp on a sandy tidal flat that was home to bald eagles, and we didn’t see another person for miles. As I sat in my tent, I could see down the mellow rapids of the glacier-fed Wosnesenski River that had meticulously carved out the landscape that spread out before me.

Climbing above the Wosnesenski River

For three days, we enjoyed the awe-inspiring landscape: the rocky walls full of adventurous multi-pitch climbing, the Wosnesenski River (perfect for paddling and exploring the base of the glacier), and the wild and magnificent scenery to accompany all of our leisurely activities of card games, reading, and relaxing. As this wonderful retreat from the real world began to wind down, we re-inflated our pack rafts and floated 11 miles down the Wosnesenski River to Kechemack Bay.

Along the way, we saw the Wosnesenski Glacier and Kenai mountains dwindle on the horizon behind us as we traversed through the harsh rapids — it was enough to make a mediocre swimmer like me nervous — and arrived in the bay by Haystack Rock. Once we were there, we waited for our water taxi to deliver us to Homer. Unfortunately, we only had one day to recoup from our adventures before catching our flight home to Anchorage. So, we rested under clear blue skies at a beautiful campground on the spit in Homer.

Much to our dismay, we woke up with the daunting task of journeying back home to New England.

Packrafting home from the glacier.

Three Ways to Help Curb Climate Change

On the ride back, I couldn’t help but think that my trip had been so amazing because I was able to experience this landscape before the glaciers had become even more depleted. I couldn’t help but feel lucky to have had this experience knowing that the glaciers are melting faster than ever before. This led me to think, what can I do as an individual to allow others in the future to be able to share the same experiences? Of course, I don’t have the perfect answer, but what I can do is share three action items I felt inspired to commence after this life-changing trip.

  1. Get Educated: I think the first step is to be educated on what is happening to our environment, to learn how it affects the flora, the fauna, the native people to areas, and the prosperity of a region.

  2. Get Active: The next step is to educate yourself on how your vote can affect legislation that protects the environment we love so dearly. Get active and get involved in local and national legislation.

  3. Do Small Things Everyday: Lastly, I know I can make the small changes that will positively affect the environment every day. Personally, I know that I need to make a greater effort and have the ability to do so, whether that’s spreading the knowledge of environmental practices, reducing my waste and inefficient consumption, eating locally, or my personal favorite — a bike commute.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve included a few scientific articles, plus an image that resonated with me after my trip to Alaska. My hope in reading them was to learn more about the challenges that this region faces, and I hope it does the same for you. Now, more than ever, it’s so important to learn and act in support of our changing climate so we can all appreciate the beauty of this landscape for years to come.

Climate Change Impacts, National Park Service

Retreating Exit Glacier has Become an Icon of Climate Change, Yereth Rosen

Alaska’s Glaciers Are Retreating, Margeret Kriz Hobson



The NEMO GO FAR (Get Outside For Adventure & Research) Program gears employees up and sends them out to spend time in interesting places in NEMO gear. We believe great design starts with real adventures, and are committed to making sure all NEMO employees get to experience it. Brittany Bendel is NEMO's Test Engineer and loves exploring caves, rock climbing, and spending time on the trail whenever she can.