Above and below...

Sunday March 25th. Posted by Alexandra Messerli

So this is my third time here in this special subglacial world. I finally arrived here after a rather long journey from an equally stunning place - Svalbard. A bus, two planes, one car, a small boat and a long hike, 14 hours later I arrive in front of the bunker door leading to the world of icy research.

I am a PhD student based at the Centre for Ice and Climate in Copenhagen. My fieldwork area is split between the Svartisen underworld and the beautiful blue surface of Engabreen. I am researching the connection between glacier dynamics and the hydrological conditions. My work in the lab is primarily working together with the other PhD student PiM (Pierre-Marie) to collect subglacial data, and secondly to collect velocity and displacement data from the surface during speed up events. I aim to investigate the spring speed-up event which usually occurs in the first two weeks of May and secondly, an artificial speed-up event in August where we will recreate a Jökulhlaup under the glacier when we flush the large sediment chamber in the tunnel system.

Since arriving in the tunnel I have spent time fixing the ATV and getting it to start, after a while of prodding and poking, bingo it's running!

The next job is a trip out of the tunnel with batteries strapped on the ATV to check the GPS systems ready for the next time we come up to the tunnel in April. Greeted by a blizzard and darkness I decide to wait until the morning to go out and check them. It's easy to lose track of time in here. The clock displays an arbitrary number, and working hours are determined by energy levels, not time.

The rest of the day was spent hot water drilling out more of the cave to make sure the ice does not close over the pressure sensors before the cement sets once we have replaced the load cells.  In between clearing out the sediment that collects when we melt out the debris-laden ice and redirecting the hot water drill we managed to remove all the pressure sensors and packers from the pump experiments that had taken place in the previous few days.

The next days will be spent checking the final GPS systems and setting up the sliding experiment. This is in order to test them for the May visit so any adjustments can be made in time for the big sliding event.
I'm looking forward to the April and May visits when I hope to bring you some news and photos from both the upper and lower reaches of Engabreen!

Greetings from 200m below the ice.


Photo 1: Picture of clear basal ice

Photo 2: Interface between the clear glacier ice and the sediment-rich layer below