Breathtaking footage goes viral after eagle carries camera high above Alps on critical mission
In an effort to raise awareness of the changing climate, an organization uses an eagle-mounted camera to show how glaciers are crumbling across the Alps.
The images are breathtaking, yet their focus highlights dire conditions in the Alps. The footage comes from a 360-degree camera mounted between the wings of Victor, a 9-year-old white-tailed eagle, and shows how he views the world as he soars high above it.
Over the past month, Victor has made five flights over the Alps in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy and ending in France on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Eagle Wings Foundation, the group that sent Victor on his high-flying mission, is using the footage, which has racked up hundreds of thousands of views and shares on social media, he returns with to highlight melting glaciers in the Alps.
“We’ve heard a lot of news in the last years about climate change, a lot of facts, but at a point, people get overloaded by facts and what we wanted to do was present this very important subject in a different way." Eagle Wings cofounder Ronald Menzel told AccuWeather. "And so this is like this cross-dialogue that we believe is quite interesting for people, and these amazing images can speak about climate change, but in a different way than everyone is used to hearing about in the meeting.”
The result creates a cross-dialogue between art, science and nature. Photographer Nomi Baumgartl photographed Victor's flights for what Menzel calls a "human, artistic, emotional perspective." Eagle Wings also partnered with the European Space Agency for scientific satellite images of the glaciers and, of course, Victor's footage: a view of wildlife from the perspective of wildlife.
Victor's handler, French falconer and Eagle Wings co-founder, Jacques Olivier Travers, also hopes that viewing Earth from a bird's-eye view will help humanity better comprehend the importance of protecting birds and their environments as white-tailed eagles have disappeared from their natural habitat in the Alps.
“So this is why this is also the perfect ambassador in Europe for this project,” Menzel said. As Travers wondered in an interview with The Washington Post, "How can you convince people to protect the birds and their environment if you never show them what the birds see?"
Weather conditions are crucial to each flight not only for better-looking videos but also, more importantly, because Victor needs to be able to see his handler when he takes off.
“So imagine that 4 miles away, you or me, we cannot see a car. Eagles see 10 times better than we do but still, they need to see the trainer so this is why if there are clouds or fog or anything, it’s just not possible to fly,” Menzel said. If Victor can't see Travers, the flight is canceled.
The resulting videos are stunning: Brilliant clouds are seen floating through cerulean skies and over snow-dusted peaks and pristine mountain lakes. Organizers hope the majestic images Victor captures make it impossible to ignore the critical condition of once-monumental glaciers.
"The glaciers are melting so fast there are big underground lakes that are forming and they threaten to flood villages," Menzel said. “Around the world, in the last 50 years basically, the climate has warmed by 0.8 of a degree Celsius in the Alps; on average, it’s 1.5 percent … So this means that the last wilderness of Europe, the Alps, are affected in a way more important proportion.”
As the permafrost that once held glacier rocks together melts, the glaciers crumble. In fact, authorities in Mont Blanc, Italy, are warning that a giant glacier is in danger of collapse. According to The New York Times, two roads were closed and mountain homes evacuated on Sept. 19 after Daniele Giordan, a geologist with the Italian National Research Council, warned that 9 million cubic feet of the Planpincieux Glacier on the peak of Grandes Jorasses, a mountain on the French-Italian border, splintered and could give way at any moment.
While a fracture is typical in warm summer months, Giordan said, this crack is alarmingly wide. “A collapse that big could reach the bottom of the valley” causing devastation to anyone or anything in its path.
According to a major United Nations study, "About 10 percent of the Earth’s land area is covered by glaciers or ice sheets." The report, released on Sept. 25, blames global warming for "widespread shrinking of the cryosphere, with mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers, reductions in snow cover and Arctic sea ice extent and thickness and increased permafrost temperature."
Menzel said it's not too late to address the changing climate.
“There’s so many things you can do on a personal level, but we need also to act at the same time on an institutional level. And, actually, at the end, it’s also the public that actually puts the pressure on the government to act for global solutions. So, the worst thing you can do is to sit there and say, 'Anyway, I don’t have any impacts, so I’m not going to do anything.' Because, that way, we’re going to go straight into the wall. Or, we can say our planet is important enough, so we take care of it and just do something.”Report a Typo