Locals issue a blanket statement

Tobin Low Sep 29, 2015

If you are a small town in Switzerland, what do you do if the nearby tourist attraction starts to melt?

You cover it with blankets.

Located in the Urne Alps near the town of Gletsch, the Rhône Glacier is the largest in the area. It also has an unusual feature that attracts tourists.

“You can go inside the glacier and see the different layers of ice. In a way, it is a bit like travelling through time,” said Pierrette Rey of the Swiss branch of World Wildlife Federation.

She says a cave inside of the glacier has been carved out every year since 1870, giving visitors an unmatched close-up look. 

But here’s the thing about ice: it melts. As locals noticed the glacier shrinking in size, they took action. But as Vice writes, the locals have taken matters into their own hands. For the last eight years, they’ve been spreading protective blankets over the glacier, shielding the ice from the sun’s rays. David Volken, a glaciologist, told Vice the blanketing slows the melting process by 50 to 70 percent.

Which is good news — at least for now — for the residents of Gletsch. Several businesses tout the glacier as a major point of interest: the historic Hotels Glacier du Rhone, as well as walking tours advertised by the Swiss Travel System

But Rey expressed worry over the inevitable: “Since the glacier is melting, it will soon be impossible to go inside it, and that is the main reason why people are trying to protect it.”


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