Caucasus 2011

The second photographic-scientific expedition of the project “On the Trails of the Glaciers” took place in the Georgian mountain region of Caucasus from July 28th to September 1st , 2011.

The team expedition, coordinated by Fabiano Ventura, traveled through an almost uncontaminated and unexplored region north-west of Georgia, characterized by the major Caucasian peaks, between 3000 and 5000 meters.  The main aims of the expedition were to reshoot historical pictures form the same point of view, to evaluate the surface variation of the local glaciers, and to measure the speed of their fusion through the installation of “ablometric palines”, in order to relate the thickness of the floating debris on the glacier, its fusion rate and the reflecting power (albedo) of the different surfaces.

On the field, along with Fabiano Ventura, operated the glaciologists Prof. Kenneth Hewitt and Dr. Riccardo Scotti, and the TV troupe composed by the director Marco Preti and the cameraman Luca Venchiarutti. The troupe realized the documentary produced by SD Cinematografica that will be soon played on the major national and international TV channels.

For this second mission to Caucasus, Dr Stefano Urbini of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology of Rome joined the already highly prestigious academic International Scientific Committee formed by Prof. Claudio Smiraglia, Prof. Kenneth Hewitt and Dr. Christoph Mayer.

The most important expeditions in the Caucasus region were lead in the past by W. F. Donkey (end of 1800), Mor Dechy (seven expeditions between 1884 and 1902), by Vittorio Sella (three expeditions:1889, 1890 and 1896) by Hermann Woolley (three expeditions: 1888, 1889 and 1895), by Andrea Pollitzer (1929), by Vittorio Ronchetti (5 expeditions between 1911 and 1920) and by Viliam Heckel (two expeditions: 1958 and 1962). These photographers and explorers left an impressive archive of pictures that constituted the historical basis for the photographic comparison to highlighting the evolution of glaciers in that region.

During the expedition were examined 4 major glaciers; 20 comparative pictures were shoot from the same geographical spot used by the first pioneers more than 100 years ago; several ablometric palines and one data logger were installed. Finally, thanks to the availability of the Ministers of Environmental and Defense, and to the collaboration of the Georgian embassy in Italy and of the Italian one in Georgia, it has been possible to make 3 trips with the helicopter.

The entire on-field work was preceded by two years of preliminary studies and logistic organization.

Based on the photographic comparisons and on the scientific observations, preliminary results reveal that the Caucasian glaciers show severe retraction of the glaciers front, and important lost of thickness, such as the Chalaat glacier that lost 200m in thickness and retracted more than 3 km.






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