According to a recent photo spread in a national magazine, the Mendenhall Glacier has melted entirely.
In their September edition, Marie Claire printed two photos for an article about climate change supposedly depicting the Mendenhall Glacier in 1970 and today. Neither one is correct.
The article, titled “On Thin Ice: Can the Fashion Industry Help Save the Planet?” used photos to compare the effects of climate change on the Mendenhall Glacier: the first photo, likely taken recently, was captioned “The receding Mendenhall Glacier in 1970.” The second photo, captioned online as “The Mendenhall Glacier today,” shows the top of Thunder Mountain with Auke Bay in the background, not a shard of ice in sight.
Together the photos give the impression the glacier has completely melted since 1970 and Juneau has built an airport in the spot the glacier used to be.
“It goes to show you you’re reading a fashion magazine,” Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center director John Neary, who was quoted in the article, told the Empire in an interview. Neary went “back and forth” communicating with the magazine during their writing and research and factchecked the article before publication, informing Marie Claire of the photo’s inaccuracies.
Though it’s not clear whether Neary’s corrections reached the magazine in time to fix the print edition, his input didn’t affect the presentation of the photos in the article’s online edition; it took inquiry from the Empire for the magazine to correct the article online, which they amended Aug. 31.
Marie Claire is still investigating what happened with the breakdown in communication between Neary and the magazine.
“Marie Claire did not intend to dramatize the shrinking of the glacier,” a magazine spokesperson wrote in a statement to the Empire. “The photos have been amended online and our November issue will issue a correction.”
U.S. Forest Service permit officer Jessica Shalkowski, who wrote the permit for the magazine’s photo and video shoots, also received an advance copy of the article and corrected the errors. Shalkowski sent photos and satellite images informing the company they were printing a photo of Mendenhall Peninsula, not of the Mendenhall Glacier. She also informed them that the photo of the glacier “from 1970” was likely taken recently. It looks like the image just used a vintage-looking Instagram filter.
“The image comparison of the Mendenhall from 1970 – 2016 … is NOT accurate,” Shalkowski wrote in her email to Hearst Magazines, which owns Marie Claire, the day she received the article. Shalkowski also included accurate photos of the glacier through the years.
Hearst Magazines never responded to Shalkowski’s email.
Shalkowski said the magazine also violated its special use permit. The company was permitted to film and shoot on the Juneau Icefield and at Tracy Arm, but they made additional shoots at the Mendenhall Ice Caves and a kayak trip on Mendenhall Lake.
“They didn’t have a kayak trip to the ice caves on their permit,” Shalkowski said in a phone interview with the Empire. “On the cover of the film permit I list all the places they were going to go and those weren’t on there.”
Neary said he can’t be sure when the photo of the glacier was taken, but that it wasn’t 1970. “It was definitely not taken in 1970,” Neary said. “In the ‘90s the glacier was out by Nugget Falls.”
Marie Claire bought the stock photo of the glacier from Alamy Stock Photos, which they said wrongly identified the year the photo was taken. Alamy photos could not be reached for comment.
Abigail Dillen, the D.C.-based Vice President of Litigation for Earthjustice, was heavily sourced in the article and accompanied the Marie Claire crew on their trip to the Mendenhall Ice Caves. She said the article’s message is important, if the execution is off.
“While there was an error in assembling the graphic showing the decline of the Mendenhall Glacier, the underlying point is correct: the glacier has significantly receded in recent decades because of climate change,” Dillen wrote in an email to the Empire, adding that she would “of course” work with Marie Claire again. “Every news outlet makes a mistake on occasion.”
• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or email@example.com.
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