This week I’m going to, once and for all, weather and field work gods permitting, substantively revisit a field site. It is something that is written into almost every field research proposal – this lofty goal of accessing an ice island not once, but twice, to assess the changes which took place in the intervening period. Though I’ve gotten close in 2012 and 2013, I have yet to get back in a meaningful way, data-collection wise.
This ice island which I and a local guide intend to snowmobile out to is 40 km from Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, a town of 520 people on the east coast of Baffin Island. Myself and friends accessed the ice island, coded PII-A-1-f, in October of 2015. We established a field site where we installed an ice penetrating radar to measure ice thickness and small weather station to record the associated environmental conditions. These systems have recorded and transmitted the data daily – so that elusive return trip was not necessary to collect the data (though recouping the instruments someday would be nice!). So I guess today I’m acting a bit like a little kid before bed who keeps asking for one more bedtime story, except this time it’s quite a resource intensive journey out to a huge slab of ice!
At one point this winter the priority task of this trip was to attend to the radar system which had flat-lined around the start of the new year. However, the poor thing just needed some sun rays (like any of us after the winter season), and we were back to receiving our daily ‘radargrams’ a few weeks later.
Though I will check in on the radar and weather station, the purpose of this current trip is now to gather supplementary data around the station. We now have a very special, high-frequency data-set of ice island thickness and surface melt, but it’s just providing information at one point on a giant and variable ice surface. Now I have the opportunity to find out how thickness change varies spatially across the ice island by using a mobile radar and installing ablation [melt] stakes over transects stemming from the main field site.
The audacity of this work doesn’t stop here at the second visit to PII-A-1-f. Though this trip is really the second visit to this particular ice island, it’s a bit like the first in regards to the work being done. Now we have to get back again to re-do the transects and re-measure the ablation stakes so that we can determine the thickness change and surface melt over these transects. And we’re not just going for a third visit, but a forth too. These are planned from the trusty CCGS Amundsen in July and September later this year.
But for now, it’ll be a focus on making this trip a successful one. Fellow researchers working on sea ice surveys did a reconnaissance mission to the ice island just a few weeks ago while conducting sea ice surveys. I was relieved to find out that we’d be able to access the ice island with skidoos (and not some creative climbing and equipment hauling).
We hope to get out to the ice island this upcoming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Be on the lookout for an update after that!
In the meantime… If you’re hungry for some more information on ice islands along the Baffin Island coast, check out this pertinent, preliminary data-set (scroll down a bit on the site) from the Canadian Ice Island Drift, Deterioration and Detection database showing ice island occurrences between Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq, NU after the 2010 Petermann Glacier calving event. The Water and Ice Research Lab at Carleton University is currently amassing what will be an outstanding database of ice islands in Canadian waters after major calvings in northwest Greenland and northern Ellesmere Island. (Final note: I take full responsibility for this shameless plug.)