We are a group of young researchers and senior students from Tomsk State University specializing on glaciers and related climate studies. A few days ago, our small team returned from their recent trip to Aktru Research Station, which is located high in the mountains of the Altai Republic. This time the group was really small – two people instead of seven or eight, which usually work together and which are needed to conduct research. Most of the young scientists and graduate students from partner Universities, who were supposed to work at the Station this season along with colleagues from Tomsk State University, were unable to travel to the Altai Republic due to restrictions caused by the virus. But these limitations, fortunately, did not stop our research completely.
The glacier on Mount Aktru is a very large and difficult object for research and modeling, Alexander Erofeev, head of the TSU Lab tells us. Its thickness reaches 180 meters, and its area is about 6 km2 (picture 1). Usually, our work there is divided into several stages. The first of them takes place in May, when our task is to measure the accumulation of snow that fell during the winter on the glacier. The May expedition is traditionally the most difficult and most important one, when we need to solve a wide range of tasks in a limited time period. It is necessary not only “to make science”, but also to bring ALL the equipment (weather stations, portable drilling rig , sensors, tools for measuring the thickness of the glacier, others…) for the summer season to the glaciological field site up to 2850 meters a.s.l., install it, start measuring the amount of fallen snow before it starts to melt … (pictures 2 and 3). This requires team-work for seven or eight people. This year it was possible to go there only together with one colleague.
Aktru Station is located high in the mountains (2150 meters a.s.l.). It is impossible to get there by a regular car as you need a special transport (picture 4), and for the last part of the way, about 5 kilometers to the field site, we have to walk and to carry equipment, food, firewood. The total weight of the cargo sometimes is over 100 kg.
The distance from the main Station to the small house where we – glaciologists – usually live (picture 5) and carry out scientific work seems to be small – five kilometers. But we have to climb up 727 meters with a climbing angle of almost 45o. And for this distance we need to lift all our loads, without which it is impossible to conduct research. The glacier we are studying is now called the “Left Aktru”. In May 2020, we installed there a complex of new equipment for meteo- and glaciological monitoring (picture 6).