THE MATANUSKA GLACIER & THE LEICA X-U

Feb 8, 2018  By David Knoble
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The Leica X-U is a unique camera in the Leica lineup. The APS-C sized CMOS sensor, 23mm Summilux f/1.7 lens and battery are the same used in the Leica X. However, the similarities stop there. The X-U is water and dust sealed. Not just ‘resistant’ but sealed. The X-U can be used in shallow depths up to 15m under water for 60 minutes at a time. There is even a special under water filter that corrects the color cast so images taken under water have a natural color. Just as interesting, the X-U can also be covered in mud or sand and just rinsed off lightly to clean it up. Add the bright orange Leica X-U camera strap, which floats if the camera is dropped in the water, and the Leica X-U is the perfect camera to take ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska. I spent the last day of a two-week adventure with the Boy Scouts of America in and around this glacier. Some of the best images I took from the entire excursion are from this day on the glacier.

The largest glacier accessible by car in the United States is the Matanuska Glacier. Boasting 43 km (23 miles) long and 6.4 km (4 miles) wide at the terminus (the end), this valley glacier is about 160 km (100 miles) from Anchorage, Alaska. The glacier melts during the warmer weather, feeding the Matanuska River.

A valley glacier is a body of solid ice that moves down an existing valley, much like a river, due to its own weight. During the process, they carve a valley. Because of the large amount of ice, the air directly above it is much colder than the surrounding air, causing the warm air to be pushed up to the tops of the surrounding mountains. The  result is sunny skies over the glacier, even when there are thunderstorms surrounding it.

Glaciers are incredibly interesting because some attributes make them appear alive. Glaciers move, grow and decay, each year. The Matanuska Glacier moves about 1 foot per year. However, through the process of melting in the warmer weather, called ablation, the end of the Matanuska Glacier, or terminus, has not moved any appreciable amount since 2007. At some point, if the melting accelerates, then the glacier will actually begin to recede from its current location.

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