"Volcano Above the Clouds"


Imagine climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world. A mountain that is home to rapidly disappearing forms of wildlife and spans lush rainforest as well as polar-like glaciers. A mountain with its own weather system, that is replete with active volcanoes.

Now imagine making the climb to the summit in sub-zero temperatures, as a person who contracted polio as a child. Walking with crutches, shrouded in mist, with limited oxygen walking at the elevation of the clouds.

Hugh Thomson writes, directs and produces the Nova program "Volcano Above the Clouds" in which he documents the journey of naturalist Robin Buxton and his colleagues to the glaciers of East Africa's Kilimanjaro. Buxton contracted polio at the age of 2 and has dedicated his life to forging a relationship with nature and helping us all better understand its strength and fragility. "Kilimanjaro is dying," he warns. The glaciers around the summit are shrinking and 80% of them have disappeared.

The water that flows off the mountain is vital to the plant life on the mountain, and Buxton sets out to determine how dependent the surrounding human population is on the glacial water and if the shrinkage will also compromise the water supply of the Tanzanians living below Mount Kilimanjaro.

Buxton is accompanied by fellow naturalist and park ranger Michael Ngatoluwa. I was frustrated to learn that Ngatoluwa was one of the few Tanzanians to join the expedition in a researcher capacity because the costs of such efforts are so prohibitively expensive to local people. The expedition team ultimately swells to close to 40 people (who also manage to find the funds to document the event) who each suffer their own challenges as they begin their ascent.

So what kind of impact does climate change have on the melting ice caps and how do the shrinking glaciers affect humanity and wildlife?

You'll have to tune in. And when you do, you'll not only learn the answers to the queries above, but a few more lessons the mountain teaches Buxton and his team.


We climbed Killy in 1987

I have seen this episode several times and I have always enjoyed watching it. its incouraging and at the same time I feel a deep sadness for the loss of the ice cap.

Fantastic show, filming was great, this should be shown in schools.

I like the show for its simplicity and its wanting to perserve nature.

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