There’s been a lot of waiting going on these past weeks: waiting for purchases to arrive, waiting to be able to pack, waiting to travel… Now I find myself in the absolutely stunning surroundings of Tarfala, complete with beautiful mountains and fantastic glaciers, waiting for the winter’s snow to melt away.
Our first three days here were blessed with glorious weather, which made for a perfect helicopter ride in, and enabled us to get up to Storeglaciären without delay. Alas, the glacier is currently covered in snow from head to toe, which isn’t really ideal when you’re trying to study surface ice. Within the area that we were keen to set up our experiments, snow depth ranged from 60 – 120cm and there are three very distinct ice layers within this pack.
There are clearly two ways around this situation: 1) The ideal: Wait and let nature take it’s course, or 2) cheat.
Waiting can be a frustrating game, and waiting too long bites into extremely precious field time, so with little to loose, we quickly set about trying our hand at cheating. For two days, Aliyah and I dug until our hands blistered and our backs ached. The bottom 30cm of snow was water saturated, which is great for melt, but it adds a sting in the tail for shoveling just when you think your back can’t take anymore. Nevertheless, satisfied with our efforts, we dropped tools yesterday evening and headed home for a well deserved dinner and sauna.
We chose to stop shoveling at a thick Feb 2017 ice layer so as to not disturb the glacier ice. We’ll let nature do the remaining hard work from here and will reassess the situation tomorrow after today’s rain has faded away. Hopefully either by nature, or by nurture, we’ll get to start our experiments soon.