Wang Xiangjun, a Chinese social media influencer and environmentalist known as “Glacier Bro,” is presumed dead after an incident at a glacial waterfall in Tibet on December 20. Footage of the incident on Chinese social media appeared to show the 30-year-old climbing in the area around the base of a glacial waterfall in northern Tibet when he lost his balance or slipped and fell into icy waters with a strong current, the BBC reported.
Although Wang’s body has not yet been found, he is presumed dead. His brother posted a message to Wang’s social media accounts, translated by the BBC, which appeared to confirm his death: “My brother … lies forever in his favourite waterfall. I hope everyone does not hype up [his death], and respect the deceased. For all of his life he was obsessed with glaciers, and gave his life to glaciers. This is the best resting place for him.”
Wang was a popular influencer on the Chinese social media platform Douyin, similar to TikTok, where he shared photos and videos of his glacial adventures to his more than 3 million followers. China’s Global Times reported that rescue efforts were still ongoing days after he disappeared, but there has been no sign of Wang’s body to date.
Rescuers Said Wang Is Unlikely to Have Survived the Fall in Icy Waters & the Search Has Been Put on Hold Due to the State of the Glacier
Rescue efforts have been ongoing since Wang fell into the glacial waters. A local official told Global Times, “He could be under an ice floe. The water is 10 to 20 meters [32 to 65 feet] deep. It’s almost impossible [for him to survive].” The official said Wang likely fell in an area where the ice isn’t thick enough to stand on, whereas some parts of the river thicker ice that could be stood on.
Local outlet Apple Daily shared that Wang’s friends tried to save him when he fell in, but his down jacket was heavy in the water and they were dragged into the swift-flowing river, as well. Wang’s friends were able to make it back to solid ground but said the young man had been swept away.
According to Global Times, local emergency crews have not been able to continue with the search due to the state of the glacier at this time; rescuers are waiting for some of the floating ice to melt before resuming the rescue.
Wang Began Taking Videos of Glaciers in 2013 & He Recently Spoke at a United Nations Conference on Climate Change
Wang was raised in rural China in a farming family but became passionate about glaciers after seeing them in a tourism ad, the BBC reported. Wang began photographing glaciers in 2013 and during the past seven years had photographed more than 70 different glaciers. Wang gained millions of followers on social media, using the handle Tibetan Adventurer, thanks in part to his videos documenting his adventures.
After dedicating his time to exploring glaciers, Wang became an outspoken environmentalist and advocate for greater awareness of the impact of climate change. The BBC wrote that he recently spoke at the UN Climate Change Conference about melting glaciers: “Almost all the glaciers I visited looked different from the images on my phone,” Wang said. “You need to stand in front of the glaciers to realize how fast they are melting.”