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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2011



Glaciers are one of the most beautiful and fascinating elements of nature. Slowly they creep and slide from mountain regions to the lowlands and cover huge areas of the Polar Regions. Over millions of years glaciers have been shaping landscapes by scouring rocks, and transporting and depositing debris far from its source. In so doing, they have created some of the finest landscapes on Earth. Glaciers provide meltwater that drives turbines and irrigates deserts, furnish material for the development of fertile soils and leave us a rich legacy of sand and gravel of considerable economic value. In contrast to these benefits, glaciers can also destroy human property and take people's lives through ice avalanches and lake-outburst floods.

As glaciologists, we have attempted to understand some of the infinite varieties of glacial phenomena. We have lived for months at a time on, or adjacent to, glaciers and have seen them in all their moods. They have often presented a benign appearance, as on a calm sunny day, when travelling over them has been safer than walking a city street. At other times, such as when blinding blizzards have obliterated our paths and the snow has treacherously hidden crevasses, glaciers have made us wish for the security of home. Yet time and again we have been drawn back to glaciers, eager to absorb their natural beauty as well as to gain a better appreciation of how they behave and to contribute to the science of glaciology.

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