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Published: August 22nd 2019
After breakfast we hiked to the lateral moraine where there is an excellent viewing area of the glacier. The roundtrip distance is about 7.5 miles. Two of the researchers passed me on the way up and they had a drone. More on this later.
I was able to sit in front of the glacier for 2 hours just watching pieces calving off. It was difficult to take a video because by the time I turned the video on the piece had already fallen into the fjord. The pieces just kept falling off and the location moved around so you could never guess where the next one would happen.
The boat we came out on yesterday showed up today to give their passengers a view of the calving and the boat looked so small. Good to have a reference to see how large the face of the glacier is.
After 2 hours and not so great videos, we walked back to camp. I have a standard cabin so I don’t have a bathroom or power. I’m able to charge my devices in the dining hall, and the toilet and showers are for all of us that have standard cabins
or yurts. I fell asleep when I got back from the hike, took a shower, and joined Nick and Angela for happy hour. Then we had dinner at 1900. Jan saw an artic fox and was able to get some photos.
We were so lucky because the researchers came to the dining hall to tell us about the research they were doing. In 1912 a research team came here from Switzerland and studied the glacier and icecap. Then 4 more French expeditions came. Luckily the current research can compare to that information. The students are from University in Zurich and come out here each summer (I think for past 4 years). They set up lasers, do time lapse videos, drone videos, sampling, temperature studies of air and water.
To summarize, the glacier came out into the bay in 1912 and was quite stable until mid 1990’s. Then it started receding to its present location. Also, the character of the flow changed. The flow was smooth, and from 2012-2015 huge parts of the face would calve and cause big tsunamis. There’s a video on YouTube that I need to find of one of these events. Since then the glacier
has thinned, and the movement causes more jagged pieces moving over the top that we can see and down to the face. Due to this the calving now is a bunch of chunks coming off and not the dramatic portion of the face.
Here's one video from 2014:
The deeper ocean temperature is warmer than the surface temperature (about 1 degree Celsius) which also affects the melting of the glacier. As the chunks fall off they melt, the fresh water stays on the surface of the salt water, and also keeps the surface temperature colder.
The researcher also went to the icecap, a one-way 4 hour hike from here. There is a clear line of glacier with dirt on it and cleaner white glacier. They did core sampling and oxygen 16/18 isotope ratio studies and found that the dirty glacier is from the last ice age (10,000 years ago) and the cleaner glacier is recent. The dirt probably came in recently but the ice below it is very old according to the results. These core samples were done last year and more samples were obtained this year.
Overall the glacier is thinning, the location of
the terminus (what I have been calling the face) is stable, and is difficult to predict what will happen because there are so many factors to consider.
The head researcher said that each time he comes here on the boat he says “I’m not going to take pictures of the icebergs because I have hundreds of pictures”, and each time he does take pictures because the icebergs are so unique. I don’t feel so bad now about all my iceberg pictures.
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