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Thursday, 17 July 2008 19:12
Nolan on McCall Glacier: Hard science, caribou stampedes and mosquito squadrons
University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist Matt Nolan has just completed the second phase of an extensive study of McCall Glacier in northern Alaska, briefly returning to civilization after over two months on the glacier with heaps of ice cores and measurements of glacier dynamics, but also with some great panoramic photos, timelapse photography, and videos of his young son Turner skiing for the first time. Matt’s daily documenting of what scientists (and his family) get up to on an glacier expedition has now been posted to www.IPY.org, with many new panoramas and video. You can read all of Matt’s entries, in reverse chronological order, but below are just some of the highlights: ...
Tuesday, 01 July 2008 04:58
Day 70: Phase Two of the project ends
Today we ended Phase Two of the project and began Phase Three. It started out bright and sunny, but by mid-morning the thunderheads had built up and by mid-afternoon we had been getting rain for a while. Dirk launched about 2PM from Coldfoot to come get us with his Beaver, now on tundra tires instead of skis, bringing John Sebert with him to deploy some GPS base stations. They showed up at our strip about 5:30PM, and we loaded up to set up another base station further up the valley before heading back to Kaktovik. The packraft deployed on the Jago River. ...
Monday, 30 June 2008 04:53
Day 69: A long day ends in success
It began as a straightforward day, but quickly took a number of twists and turns. The biggest major wrinkle was that Jason discovered that he had forgotten a cable for the differential GPS. The idea was that we were going to survey the valley on our hike down and use these data as QC data for the lidar acquisition, planned to start in a few days. But he decided not to turn it on during our rock crossing as likely the antenna would get jostled too much to acquire reliable data, so we didn’t find out about the cable until now. So the choices were for one or more of us to go back and get it, or try to find an alternate cable and get it sent to Kaktovik fast. Given that it was Sunday in civilization, we opted to go back and get it. So Jason and Joey headed off – with no packs! – while Kr...
Sunday, 29 June 2008 04:47
Day 68: Caribou stampede!
Tonight as we settled in to bed for the evening after the first day of our hike to the tundra, a herd of about 200 caribou ran through our camp heading towards the same destination. We began the day in fog and occasional drizzle, but the most annoying part of it was the thick swarms of mosquitos. Fortunately just as we began hiking, a small headwind picked up and kept them mostly at bay. The aufeis provided a bit of a highway for us on the way downhill, but it didn’t last long and soon we were in the worst section of hike – scrambling over large loose rocks covered with slippery wet lichen, to avoid the waterfall that forms in the bedrock constriction in the stream. This section is truly awful, especially when its wet, and the most nerve wracking for Kristin and I as it is the only sec...
Saturday, 28 June 2008 04:43
Day 67: First ten days of stream data record our flood
Given that this is the first time we’ve worked at the stream, we were relieved to find out that our equipment was functioning as expected and recorded the flood that occurred during our move down here. I downloaded the time lapse cameras today and stitched the images into the movies below. These cameras were designed for hunters to figure out when is the best time to shoot deer or whatever, so they are not the highest quality. But they are cheap and waterproof, and suit our needs well enough. I stitched the images into the movies below. The date and time is stamped on the bottom of the image. We arrived on the 25th in the late afternoon, and you can see the stream start to rage at just about this time, due to the intense rainfall which has no where to go but into the stream. The plot bel...
Friday, 27 June 2008 04:37
Day 66: Final stream equipment installed
Jason and Joey were up early this morning to shuttle the last remaining gear from the glacier, which was mostly related to a sonic distance ranger to be suspended over the stream to measure the water height over time. A week earlier we had suspended a cable across the stream at a location where the high banks would hopefully protect it from being washed away. Today we hung the sonic ranger on that cable, with the help of some metal conduit we salvaged from the glacier from previous campaigns. The idea is that once a minute, the unit beams down high frequency sound waves downwards onto whatever surface is beneath it. The waves then bounce off that surface and the unit receives them, counting the time it takes for this to happen. The speed of sound is a pretty straightforward function of air...
Thursday, 26 June 2008 04:25
Day 65: A desperate camp move to the terminus
We spent this morning leisurely packing in the sun, but by the time we actually moved, conditions were about as desperate as we’ve dealt with in the past 2 months. I shuttled Jason and Joey down to the weather station, where our second borehole camp was, about noon. The glacier then was covered by high, dark clouds, but the coastal plain was crystal clear and we didn’t have much thought about the weather. By the time I returned to get Kristin and Turner, however, rain showers had begun and the skies darkened. It didn’t take long to load up and started heading down the hill, but by the time we started down it began to hail. We hoped it was just a quick cloud burst, but by the time we were at the bottom of the hill, lightening was striking all around us and the hail was intensifying. B...
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 04:20
Day 64: Impacts of 50 years of climate change on the terminus
Today I was up at 5:30AM to try to complete the work I attempted yesterday. Jason and Joey were up earlier, getting ready to complete the drilling they started yesterday too. After shuttling them up to the upper cirque, I headed down the terminus with a load of science gear and food, trying to take advantage of the crystal clear skies for my 50 year repeat photo of the terminus. The clear night had hardened the snow, but also made the ice surface slick. So slick in fact that I had to drop off the sled before the last hill because the ice provided no traction for the sled and made it tend to try to get in front of the snow machine. On the way to the photo site I took a few quick panoramas of the stream and aufeis, while the terminus was still in the shade of the early morning. I had forgott...
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 04:17
Day 60-63: Preparing for 6 trips at once
On our return from the terminus, the clock began ticking once again with deadlines. Kristin, Turner and I need to be in Kaktovik by July 1, and a lot of preparations are needed before we leave: we have to pack for a week at the terminus doing stream work, a several day hike to our airstrip on the tundra, for two weeks in Kaktovik, for a one week trip to Colorado after that, for a hike back in to the glacier in late July, and for another month or so on the glacier. Because we are avoiding helicopter use, anything we have here that we need on any of these trips we must now hike out with. Plus we need a good inventory of what’s here so we know what else we need to bring back with us, especially in terms of food. For example, I need a computer in Kaktovik plus all of my files, so I need to p...
Friday, 20 June 2008 04:13
Day 59: Successful shakedown at the stream
We left the terminus today having succeeded with most of what we wanted to accomplish there. This morning we tested out the fluorometer, a device that ingests samples of water and tells you whether there is any dye in it before spitting it out again. The dye in this case is a glorified food coloring that we drop in by the teaspoon; it’s too diluted in the stream to see it, so the machine tells us whether its there or not. The idea is to put some in the stream on the glacier (that had the slush flow a few days earlier) before it disappears into a hole in the ice and see how long it takes to travel to outlet stream at the terminus where we are now. If it takes a short time, chances are there is a well developed conduit system beneath the glacier – basically a river. But if it takes a lon...
Calendar of Events
Fri, 07 May 2010IPY Monthly Report: May 2010
Tue, 30 Mar 2010IPY Report: April 2010
Wed, 03 Mar 2010IPY Report: March 2010
Tue, 02 Feb 2010IPY Report: February 2010
Thu, 21 Jan 2010IPY Oslo Science Conference -...
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