Catching the rays

Two weeks and a number of experiences later…

We are all amazed that we have been on Svalbard for close to a month. Since the last entry we’ve been vaulted through a week each of lectures on glacial dynamics and remote-sensing techniques and taken excursions to two local glaciers to test equipment and learn of their unique histories.

View into town from Longyearbyen

View into town from the glacier Longyearbyen 

Ice penetrating radar – which must have come up in a previous entry – is used for glacial profiling and we took a half-day excursion to the local glacier, Longyearbyen, to test out the university’s equipment. When we use radar for ice islands we are mostly concerned about determining their thickness. This is true for glaciologists as well, however, they also tend to experiment with their antenna frequency to hone-in on stratification within the ice. This can give hints to the locations of boundaries between cold and temperate ice, debris layers and melt water channels or englacial lakes. Detecting these features is useful in constructing a theory on the glacier’s past, and possibly it’s future. The university has sourced some amazing equipment for this. Their radar uses fiber optic connections and is tough enough to withstand snowmobile speeds. Plans are brewing to improve the slow towing of two sets of skis on the ice islands!

The radar set up

The radar set up

A small group revisited the glacier over the weekend for a relaxed ski on a beautiful day. I was impressed at the Fischers, as well as my shins, for holding up well on the descent!

Mine relics

Mine relics

Starting off

Starting off

The place to be!

The place to be!

Svalbard Selfie

Svalbard Selfie

Coming down

Coming down

The 'toothpick' skis

The ‘toothpick’ skis

I spent the last week learning about various techniques to detect changes in the cryosphere (glaciers, sea ice, ice shelves, ice sheets, etc.) with spaceborne sensors. I’m hoping to determine a way to detect the change in an ice island’s thickness with satellite collected data, so this week was especially pertinent for what’s to come with the research to be conducted back in Ottawa.

We did get to venture out on a stunning day to Tunabreen, a glacier ending at the water (now covered with sea ice). It was a good 2 hour skidoo ride out along two fjords and we were graced with the presence of caribou, at least 1 seal, and sun beams (!!!). Tunabreen is a glacier that has been slowly retreating – which evidence seen in the local seabed from its annual push mounds (due to slight advancements before further retreat). It calves regularly when the ocean warms over the summer, but we also saw some fresh rubble from a recent calving.

Tan anyone?

Tan anyone?

Tunabreen

Tunabreen

Scale

Scale

The wall

The wall

Sun

The sun is set to shine on Longyearbyen proper tomorrow – given that the clouds cooperate. We are set to go to a little festival to greet it tomorrow. That, on top of a trip to another ice cave today in yet another local glacier more-or-less out my backdoor, makes for a solid weekend!

Enjoy your own weekends, wherever you find yourself!

Down we go!

Down we go!

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