As glaciologists planning a new project somewhere we haven’t been before, we can spend hours, days and months pouring over satellite imagery and, yes, over Google Earth. None of this usually prepares us for the reality on the ground, because the imagery we are looking at is generally missing something.
On Monday 28th November we finally took the Sørsdal Glacier project into 3D by landing at one of our field sites, a prominent surface lake on the glacier. A brief overflight earlier in the month had already prepared me for the fact that many of the features that I had assumed to be crevasses downstream of the lake, were in fact strange keels of ice poking out from the glacier surface, though seeing these strange beasts up close was still a fantastic experience and a source of anxiety — we really don’t know how these things are formed and what the Sørsdal surface lakes are actually doing.
Having had Nick and Gideon — field training officers (FTOs) probe the site to ensure it was safe and suitable for us and our instruments, we were back in full force the next day: Eleri and myself from the project team, Gideon and Nick from the FTO side and Ladge and Lotter, the wintering electronics engineers and allround instrumentation gurus.
In record time — I've never worked with such a well oiled impromptu team that had so little prior induction to the setup — we put up a time lapse camera on a tower mounted in the ice and several pressure transducers.
These will monitor the evolution of the melt lake for the season, and hopefully through the winter into the 2017–18 summer. We will be looking to measure lake depth evolution and understand what causes the surface features on the lake and its “wake” — the downstream area where the flow of the ice carries the remnants of the frozen over or drained lake in winter.