A Mission to Reach the “Snows of the Nile”

When you think of Africa, glaciers probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. And certainly not glaciers on the Equator. But the Rwenzori Mountains aren’t in the business of conforming to expectations.

The Rwenzoris rise 5000m from the heart of Africa, dividing the continent. On one side: Uganda and the headwaters of the Nile River. On the other: the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mighty river that bears the same name.

These “Mountains of the Moon,” as they are sometimes called, are taller than the Alps or the Rockies, but they remain virtually unknown outside of Africa. When they were first climbed in 1906, their mere existence caused a sensation in Europe. Luigi di Savoia, the Duke of Abruzzi, reached the peaks and returned home with dramatic photos – captured by the expedition’s photographer, Vittorio Sella – revealing a surreal landscape of snow and ice, looming over the rainforest below.

But the Earth’s climate is changing. Glaciers all over the world are shrinking as the world gets warmer. If we followed in the Duke’s footsteps, a hundred years later, what would we see? My buddy Nate Dappen and I decided we had to find out.

We managed to find funding in an unlikely place: our project won a nationwide online vote, and we were awarded the first-ever “Stay Thirsty Grant” from Dos Equis (yes, the beer company!). There was no time to lose; glaciologists estimated that the famous glaciers of the Rwenzoris had dwindled by more than 80% in just a century, and predicted that the remaining ice would be gone in less than 20 years. The future of the mountains, their remarkable endemic biodiversity, and the Bakonjo people who call them home were far from certain.

Our new film, Snows of the Nile, follows our journey to re-capture the historical photographs from the Duke of Abruzzi’s legendary 1906 expedition. If we could retrace the Duke’s steps, brave the Rwenzoris’ notoriously unpredictable weather, and re-capture Vittorio Sella’s glacier images, our photographs would bear witness to a century of climate change. We hope you watch the film, so you can share our adventure and experience the Rwenzori Mountains for yourselves!

For National Geographic readers, we have a special treat: the first 150 readers who click “Rent” or “Buy” on Snows of the Nile (at the top of this post) can watch the full 20-minute documentary for free! Just enter the code NATGEO150 at checkout. Thanks for watching!

Neil Losin is a National Geographic Explorer based in Boulder, Colorado. Neil founded Day’s Edge Productions in 2010 with his colleague Nate Dappen. Follow Snows of the Nile on Facebook for the latest news and screenings in your area, and visit www.snowsofthenile.com to see more photos from the expedition.

Changing Planet

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Meet the Author
Neil Losin is a National Geographic Young Explorer. He is a biologist, photographer, and filmmaker pursuing his Ph.D. in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he studies the evolution of territoriality in lizards. When he isn’t doing his own research, Neil uses photography and video to help fellow scientists communicate about their work. He is the co-founder and Editor of SustainableFocus.org, a web community and magazine promoting visual communication about science and the environment. You can see his photography at www.neillosin.com, and check out his videos and blog at www.daysedgeproductitons.com.