It all comes down to the sausage

We’ve just got back from four days of camping at our field site. Camping gave us easy access to the ice cap and the northern part of the valley. We had some really good weather – apart from a short hail downpour, which made for great views of the ice. It got pretty cold at night though, and we woke up to frozen boots and frost on the tent.  Fortunately, we had plenty of hot porridge and coffee to wake us up.

All our equipment and food for the four day trip!

Warming up with some expedition ready meals outside the tent!


Just before we left the station, we met up with dear colleague Michele from GEUS, who we have met before at Zackenberg, on the East coast of Greenland. Michele and his colleague Daniel are here at Disko to continue their monitoring of the Chamberlain Glacier. They were also heading out to the ice cap during our visit and we were pleased to see them arrive at the glacier while we were working on the foreland – we didn’t get close enough to speak to them at the time, but they provided excellent scale bars for our photos.

Looking over the snout and foreland of Chamberlain Glacier.

We managed to get right up to the glacier and take sand and pebble samples from within the ice (englacial sediment) and underneath it (subglacial sediment) as well as from the meltwater streams that flow from the ice. This will allow us to identify what kind of minerals are being transported from the glacier and deposited along the valley.

Kathryn sampling englacial sediment from Chamberlain Glacier.

On the second day of our trip we headed north to visit another glacier – one that features in one of our recent journal papers – and we went back to take some more samples from the moraines as well as the meltwater sediment. This time the foreland was pretty messy, with lots of large mounds of material, and we couldn’t make it up to the ice front. Which was a shame! But there’s always next time….

That evening we were treated to the northern lights over our tent. It was sub-zero temperatures, but we still managed to stand outside the tent for long enough to see them before a very bright moon came up and they were less visible.

We were glad to have gathered plenty of samples and the following day we made the six hour journey back to Arctic Station. It’s quite a varied walk, with a mixture of steep scree slopes, dense scrubby vegetation, bogs, and bedrock canyons, so it can take quite a while! We spent most of the journey daydreaming about making chilli for our evening meal. When we arrived back at Arctic Station, Daniel and Michele were not far behind us, and, just like us, they were sporting the ‘glaciology sun tan’ – basically a red face. We were easy to spot amid the other researchers at the station.


Kathryn sporting matching trousers and face.

After making our chilli – improvised with chorizo sausage and supplemented by some minke whale that had recently been caught in the town – we had a nice evening chatting to the other researchers in the lounge. Some of them had devised a game based on the texture and colour of sediments.

The format: four contestants – including the station manager – and an ‘international panel of expert judges’ (aka the red-faced glaciologists who represent Italy, Austria, and Britain). By rolling mud in their hands, until it forms a sausage shape, the contestants use the standard sedimentology technique of ‘hand texturising’ to determine how much clay, silt, and sand is in the sample (honest, it’s a real thing!). The prize: pride…oh…and a small glass of cognac. Success really all came down to the sausage. It was one of the nerdiest games we have ever witnessed, but we were all in agreement that it would make for an excellent prime time TV show.

After a fun filled evening of mud sausage rolling, we had a well-deserved (if we may say so ourselves) day off which was spent sleeping, eating, baking cakes, writing up field notes and washing our camping clothes. We’re now ready to head into the field again and collect some more samples!

Enjoying the scenery on a moraine by the glacier.

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