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Take in the Fearsome Beauty of a Melting Glacier

What’s the rush? Greenland’s Jakobshaven glacier is the fastest melting in the world.

By now you’ve surely read a bit about Greenland. That its ice sheet is melting twice as fast as we originally thought. That recently an iceberg the size of Manhattan vanished. But visiting the country, seeing the earth evolve right in front of your eyes, is infinitely more powerful than words on a page.

Jakobshavn, a shelf of ice in southwest Greenland, holds the dubious title of fastest-melting glacier on earth. Each day, 170 feet of the majestic block streams into the ocean. And that’s just the melt. Hunks that crack off here account for 10 percent of all volume lost by Greenland’s ice sheet. This important swath of snow and ice is at once ground zero for scientists struggling to understand just how quickly the earth is warming and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Likewise, a trip there is a mix of shock and awe.

There is no better way to appreciate this corner of Greenland than by visiting a global warming specialist, which outfitter Cox & Kings can arrange. While it’s too dangerous to actually walk on the glacier’s surface, you can hike on mountains near the site, sail by it, or fly above it in a helicopter to get a full perspective on our present—and future. 

Check out four more stunning glaciers to visit . . . sooner rather than later.

1. Alaska
A Glacier Without the Guilt
Visiting the planet’s glaciers has often meant hopping on a gas-guzzling tour bus—talk about an ethical conundrum. But Alaska Coach Tours has begun testing electric-powered coaches for trips to the mighty 13-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska, and by 2017 it plans to roll them out to the public. Hey, it’s a start.

Sólheimajökull glacier on the south coast of Iceland.
2. Iceland
The Incredible Shrinking Glacier
Every year, the road to reach Solheimajokull glacier on the southern coast of Iceland is lengthened. Why? Because the glacier is shrinking an average of a kilometer a year. A day visit includes a glimpse of volcanic ash left by the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions and a crawl through ethereal ice caves with Trek Iceland.

3. Canada
Get Above It All
Of all the glaciers in Canada’s Columbia Icefield, Athabasca is the most epic. But each year the glacier recedes about three meters, inspiring people from all over the world to trek up the steep mountain slopes to get a feel for what the Ice Age was like. Not up for the cold? Hop into a helicopter for an hour-long flight above the Columbia Icefields—including Athabasca—with Rockies Heli Canada

The famous Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina.
4. Argentina
Step Into the Ice Age
Perito Moreno Glacier, one of South America’s most famous landscapes, is very good at making people feel very small. The glacier’s icy walls tower over 55 meters above the blue waters of Lago Argentino. For a chance to stand atop the mighty Perito Moreno, and to explore the many caves of the glacier, spend a few hours on a Big Ice Tour.

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