Back to the start

I’d heard whisperings from afar that snow had fallen on Tarfala.

Of course, there was little that I could do about it, but the anticipation of what I would return to was never far from my mind.

Roped up, trekking up a snowy Storeglaciären, I was beginning to wonder whether Mike and I should have brought a couple of shovels. But as the glacier’s angle eased, it started to look like everything was all going to be just fine.

Re-finding the site was easy, despite the snow; I’d left a huge pile of Rock-Socks, which had become a local sigh-seeing feature over the summer. Mike and I quickly got to work against the ever growing icy blasts of air. This was no place to hang around in.

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Radioing in from site Rock-Socks

Our mission for the week was to sample and process late season microbial communities as much as possible in the little time that we had. Fortunately, strong winds, lashing rain and mild(ish) temperatures were soon to be on our side for assisting snow melt. I’d also managed to streamline our sampling regime so that we could be done and dusted at the glacial site in under an hour, to avoid the perils of freezing fingers and numb toes.

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Storeglaciären freezing-up for the year.

As the week went on, the loss of snow assisted with our sampling, but it still felt like Tarfala had given up on summer for the year. Now that I’ve returned home, the weather forecasts keep showing the research station with sub-zero temperatures and snow; so I’m more than pleased that we managed to catch this end of season window.

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Calm after the storm(s): Glad for a wind-free day.

Finally, all that was left to do was to clear up and pack out; which is where Mike really came into his own, with the dismantling of the Rock-Socks and helping to carry out all our kit.

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The evolution of Mike as he tows Rock-Socks away
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Autumn beneath our feet.

All in all, it’s been a funny sampling year for me. The research station even announced that Storeglaciären actually gained weight this year; something we don’t tend to expect these days. The staff at the station were fantastic, and I’m more that grateful to INTERACCESS for funding this trip. Here’s hoping that some great results follow suit. Cheers Tarfala!

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