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Jack Ives Presentation on Climate Change in Iceland

Skaftafell (photo by Dr. Jack Ives)

Canadian Nordic Society members and guests were treated on March 16 to a truly engrossing lecture by member Dr. Jack Ives, on his own personal experiences and observations as a research scientist studying glaciers in Iceland. His lecture was illustrated with many stunning photos taken over the years from 1952 to quite recently.

Jack explained at the outset that he considers the human element of great importance in the study of geography. He has always paid close attention to what local Icelanders told him about the changing conditions of the glaciers and the surrounding area. As farmers, they and their ancestors lived in close communion with nature and were very conscious of changes in the local flora and fauna, and in the size and position of their local glaciers. They carefully documented many of those changes. Their accounts of historic changes in the local landscape can yield significant clues to be taken into account by scientists who are trying to piece together the natural history of the area. Jack noted that some of the local Icelanders believe they can trace their ancestry right back to the first settlers, and they may well be correct in this belief. The Icelandic sagas certainly seem to have some foundation in historical events.

Jack showed us some illustrations of how the glaciers have changed over time. I was most impressed by one slide illustrating that although a glacier may appear to have receded by only a few meters, the actual mass of the glacier overall can have shrunk by 50% or more. This was an eye-opener for me.

A very lively question and answer session followed the lecture. It was apparent that Jack’s audience was captivated by his account of his adventures as a research scientist, not just in Iceland but all over the world.

Jack Ives has published many books and articles over the years. His most recent, “Baffin Island: Field Research and High Arctic Adventure, 1961 to 1967” was published by the University of Calgary Press, which describes it as follows:

Baffin Island encompasses both field research and High Arctic adventure. The research trips to Baffin between 1961 and 1967 also served as a vital training ground in polar studies for university students; further, they represented a breakthrough in gender equality in government sponsored science, thanks to the author's persistence in having women permitted on the teams. The book contains a special section detailing the subsequent professional achievements of the many researchers involved (in addition to the later career moves of Ives himself) and a chapter that delves deeper into the science behind their fieldwork in the North. Readers need not be versed in glaciology, however. Ives has produced a highly readable book that seamlessly combines research and adventure.

The book contains many photos of very high quality. It can be downloaded free of charge, or purchased from Amazon. For more information, visit

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