Like a switch was flipped, we changed from winter to spring, in several ways. A few feet of fresh snow had fallen during the last week of May and early June. Then we had 3 days of warm, mostly sunny weather, just long enough to get the drill gear and team out and the newest member of team in. By the time Dirk took off with our final load of gear, a serious rain had begun and spring was here – the snow was melting, the streams were running, and we began scrambling to catch up on all of the winter work we had wanted to get done in the past month but just didn’t have the time or weather. With this new weather also came a change in work dynamics, with just five us now and all focused on our process studies, we are a much leaner and more focused team, concentrated on supporting Jason’s process studies at the stream and upper cirque, as well as enjoying the surroundings and each others’ company.
Kristin takes Turner for a ride down the ski-way.
Lifting the winch was the crux of the pull-out, but it turned out to be pretty easy with so many hands.
Turner helps load the last of the ice cores.
With the new weather comes new challenges. This is the first year we’ve used a snow machine here, and at this point we’re hoping to make use of it to help finish up our winter work before summer really arrives in full force. Using the snow machine, what would be an all day trip to the terminus and back takes only 30 minutes, but it’s not without its own challenges and limitations. The day after the last flight went out, Jason and Joey traveled down-glacier to move some gear to the stream and download some dataloggers along the way. By the time they got half-way down though, it was raining and snowing and causing the snow beneath them to turn to slush and the snow machine to bog down with no traction, and it was not the greatest weather to be dealing with electronics. Potentially worse, running water could be heard in the streams we now cross on natural snow bridges, and the difference in weight between a snow machine carrying two people and two people crossing separately on skiis can make the difference in bridge stability. Given the issues, they returned by mid-day and we enjoyed a nice evening with new food that Joey had brought in.
Joey prepares some cookie dough for baking.
Time for a few crosswords while they’re baking.
Turner tries to sneak around for some more cookies.
Turner: “If I give you these flags, can I get some more cookies?”
The next morning I had woken up about 6AM and saw that the snow was frozen solid and the weather was good, so I decided to head out right then and try to get some of our down-glacier work done. I was up early largely because I spent most of the day before sleeping in my tent. It’s really been a few months since I had a real day off with no work involved, and with my mind now off logistics finally, I think I just needed a day to reset my brain and get back into science mode. My plan was to be back about 9AM or so, so that we could still have a full day of something else once I was back. The conditions were fine, and I was able to change out our logger batteries, download all of the new thermistor strings, and haul a load of gear to our stream camp. It took a little longer than I anticipated as it turned out that one of our thermistors strings was miswired at the factory (it’s actually just someone’s garage…) and it was the one string that I was not able to test in Fairbanks before I left, but in the end I was back by 10AM and all of our equipment was functioning as expected. I then dropped off Jason and Joey near the terminus so that they could shuttle the loads the final part of the way on ski and foot, and hunt for a suitable camping spot there. Given all of the work we have planned down there, our plan is to keep tents and stoves down there for the summer. This deployment got held up a bit by the multiple camps used during the drilling effort, but the stream was not running high enough to make this too difficult yet and lack of snow made finding a camp spot much easier, as they were able to find some old tent pads leftover from the 1970s most likely. So now we have campsites on both sides of the river, almost directly across from each other, so we should have a good base to work from.
Joey shuttles an empty barrel to the terminus to store our food in later.
Today Jason and I were up at 5AM to head back down to the terminus to install some new ablation stakes. The snow is almost gone in the lower glacier, just like it was when we first arrived in April. The major difference now is that the exposed ice is no longer the zero-friction stuff we first encountered, as the sun has melted it a bit and made it crunchy and sticky. To install the stakes, we use a steam drill to melt a hole just large enough to drop the stakes into. The stakes are pieces of electrical conduit joined together by couplers we made for them. Once we stick them in the ice, we measure how much sticks out over time as a way to measure how much ice has melted. In the terminus area, we try to make the stakes as long as possible, because this is where the glacier melts the most and we’d like to have them last several years to minimize having to drag the drill back and forth. The drilling went fine, though slower than we expected, and we got back at noon instead of 9AM. About the time we got back, the weather had changed again, like it had yesterday afternoon, and we experienced intervals of rain, snow, fog, and sunshine throughout the rest of the day. But we’re staying cozy and dry in camp, and settling in to a new pattern that I think everyone is enjoying.
Jason begins drilling a hole with the steam drill.
The hole is finished, 9 meters deep.
Trying to steam drill a hole before the snow turns to slush in the hot sun and we have to walk home because the snow machine will get stuck. (Click on the panorama and drag to look around, press Shift to zoom in, Command (Mac) or Control (PC) to zoom out.) Enlarge this panorama
Jason lowers a 9 meter survey stake into the hole he just drilled. (These were handheld shots spliced into a movie) The surface of the ice melts about 3 meters per year here, so this stake will be completely exposed again in about 3 years.
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Sunday, 08 June 2008 02:14
Day 45-47: Spring arrives on the glacierWritten by Matt Nolan
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