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Snows of the Nile: The search for vanishing equatorial glaciers

Posted on 20 February 2014 by Guest Author

Guest post by Neil Losin. 

When you think of Africa, glaciers probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. And certainly not glaciers on the Equator. But the Rwenzori Mountains aren’t in the business of conforming to expectations.

The Rwenzoris rise 5000m from the heart of Africa, dividing the continent. On one side: Uganda and the headwaters of the Nile River. On the other: the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mighty river that bears the same name.


© Day's Edge Productions / Tandem Stills + Motion

These “Mountains of the Moon,” as they are sometimes called, are taller than the Alps or the Rockies, but they remain virtually unknown outside of Africa. When they were first climbed in 1906, their mere existence caused a sensation in Europe. Luigi di Savoia, the Duke of Abruzzi, reached the peaks and returned home with dramatic photos – captured by the expedition’s photographer, Vittorio Sella – revealing a surreal landscape of snow and ice, looming over the rainforest below. 

But Earth’s climate is changing, and glaciers all over the world are shrinking as the world gets warmer. If you followed in the Duke of Abruzzi’s footsteps, more than a hundred years later, what would you see? Dr. Nate Dappen and myself, two scientists-turned-filmmakers, decided we had to find out.

We managed to find funding in an unlikely place: our project won a nationwide online vote to receive the first-ever “Stay Thirsty Grant” from Dos Equis (yes, the beer company!). There was no time to lose; glaciologists estimated that the famous glaciers of the Rwenzoris had dwindled by more than 80% in just a century, and predicted that the remaining ice would be gone in less than 20 years. The future of the mountains, their remarkable endemic biodiversity, and the Bakonjo people who call them home were far from certain.


© Day's Edge Productions / Tandem Stills + Motion

Our new film, Snows of the Nile, follows our adventure to re-capture photos from the Duke of Abruzzi’s legendary 1906 expedition. If we could retrace the Duke’s steps, brave the Rwenzoris' notoriously unforgiving weather, and re-capture Vittorio Sella's glacier images, our photographs would bear witness to a century of climate change. Snows of the Nile is a fast-paced adventure that combines science, exploration, and unforgettable human stories. When you watch the film, you can share our adventure and experience the beautiful and bizarre landscape of the Rwenzori Mountains for yourselves!

Click on the video above to watch the 90-second trailer. For SkepticalScience readers, we have a special treat: the first 10 readers who click “Rent” or “Buy” on the Snows of the Nile video (above) can watch the full 20-minute documentary for free! Just enter the code SKEPSCI10 at checkout. If you aren't one of the first 10 viewers to use the promo code, you can still watch the full 20-minute film for just $2.99 on VimeoPro (above) or iTunes. And let us know what you think of the film in the comments below!

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  1. i have just seen the preview. It dii lok interesting, particularly since I have never heard of these African mountains I tried to rent the video from Vimeo but failed. 

    meher engineer

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