Saturday, April 29, 2006

Midre Lovebreen- Day 3

Well, it seems quite a thing to get out 3 days in a row in this weather! Today we went to Midre Lovebreen again, to finish what we'd set out to do yesterday. We had a slightly later start (it _is_ saturday, after all), but got out and started driling. The wind started to pick up, and the snow started to come down. Put them both together and it becomes a bit more difficult to work. We were able to get our core drilled and the log started, and since it was no picnic outside, we piled into the logging tent to have a picnic inside!

Knut, Kirsty, and Pascual (L-R) have lunch in the relative calm of the tent.

I didn't take too many pictures outside, but I decided to try to make a short movie with my digital camera to try to convey some of the way the wind was. This is my first try embedding a quicktime movie in the blog, but lets try:

Press play on the lower left to start. Note that the wind is fairly loud- if you have, say, a napping baby nearby, you might want to turn your speakers down first.

If this isn't working for you, try downloading it directly:
CLICK FOR MOVIE (8 MB download)

in the end, we got the core, got the log, and because of all the snow, we're scheduled to go out on the Kongsvagen tomorrow- fingers crossed!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Another day on Midre Lovebreen

It was fairly warm again last night, but it didn't rain much, so we were confident we could get back out to Midre Lovenbreen again. The plan today was to collect some radar profiles, drill a shallow core, and make 2 density logs.

The first step in any day, after getting packed up and loaded on our sleds is to drive to the edge of town, stop, and load our rifles. We always have to carry these in case of Polar Bears.

The surface was a little softer than yesterday, but we all made it up onto the galcier without any trouble.

After drilling an exploratory hole, the next step was to make radar measurements:

Getting the C-band radar set up on the sled.

Then we set up the logging system and got the density log started. While we ran the log, we also got started drilling the core.

The view of drilling operations from the logging tent.

After about 3 meters of coring, we were not getting very good core quality, which makes the core difficult to analyze. Because of this, we decided to come back with some new drill gear, which we hope will collect a better core. By this time it was late afternoon, and a core takes many hours to drill, so we'll have to do this tomorrow. Still, we got a good density log and radar profiles. Right now it's raining pretty hard, though, which might make getting out tomorrow difficult. The temperature is supposed to drop tomorrow, so we hope to get some snow on the route to the Kongsvagen, maybe enabling us to get out there Sunday. fingers crossed!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Actually getting out on a glacier! `

Well, it wasn't the Kongsvagen, which is my principle objective in Svalbard, but today we actually got out on a glacier and made some measurements. Since the Kongsvagen is proving so difficult to get to, today we decided to take the neutron probe up to Midre Lovenbreen, a glacier very near Ny-Alesund. Since the route was on the north side of the mountains, it was far less slushy and we were able to get up on the glacier with little trouble. We went all the way up the glacier right near the head, in the accumulation area. The weather was beautiful, as was the view!

We started by making some radar measurements, then drilled a shallow borehole and set up the neutron logging system.

The neutron logging system, up and running on Midre Levenbreen!

The neutrom probe measures snow and ice density. It contains a radioactive source of fast neutrons and a detector for slow neutrons. The fast neutrons emitted form the source shoot out into the snow, and scatter off the water in the snow. In the process, they slow down, and, having been scattered several times, end up back at the detector. The rate of slow neutrons arriving at the detector is thus proportional to the density of the snow.

Since the emission of neutrons is a random process, data needs to be collected for a long time in order to get a statistically significant sample and get quality data. So, the neutron probe runs very slowly up the borehole- about 5cm every minute. Here's a little math exercise- what's that in miles per hour? well, I'll jsut tell you. It's 2x10^-3, sometimes written as 0.002, miles per hour. How slow is that really? When I first started the winch for the log, I was worried I'd broken something because I thought it wasn't moving. It's that slow.

In any case, slow or not, by the end of the day we had 2 density profiles. It's sure nice to have some success!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A day in the office...

Waiting for cooler weather to prevail and grant us access to the glacier. Last night was very warm, so this morning when we gathered to decide what to do there was no chance that the whole team could to get up to the Kongsvagen. So a team of 3 headed out to attempt a different route to the glacier, travelling light and quick. The rest of us settled in for a day of office work, making sure our batteries stayed charged for the next time we have a chance to get out, and catching up on office work. At least it's a beautiful office to work in, with one of the best views on earth.

Panorama looking across Kongsfjorden, from Ny-Alesund. Click on the picture for a larger view! Photo by Pascual.

As we worked on papers and data analysis, the field party was turned around by a lack of snow on thier route. Snowmobiles can be driven over short stretches of loose gravel and such, but this was a bare batch at least 300 meters long, and there was no way around. So they turned back to reattempt the route we had tried yesterday.

This time, travelling with lighter sleds and more powerful machines, they made up onto the glacier. They made mass balance measurements at the permanent stakes installed on the glacier, measuring how much snow fell or melted at different places along the glacier. Then they rescued several pieces of equipment which had been left 'overnight' a few days before, and headed for home.

It wasn't long before they ran into trouble again- the slush and water were more extensive on the trip back, and one of the sleds sunk into the slush and capsized. This caused extra drag and the snowmobile, though powerful, got bogged down as well and partially sunk.

Jack Kohler, our Fearless Leader, surveys Kjell Arild's sunken snowmobile. Photo by Rune Storvold.

Fortunately, the engine stayed dry and they were able to pull everything out and continue home, albeit with some very wet feet!

Almost needless to say, we won't be trying to head up to the Kongsvagen tomorrow. Now it's time to look at contingency plans and see what else we can accomplish. It would be a shame to have to go home empty-handed!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bogged down in slush!

Well. Today we got up bright and early, got organized, and packed up ready to head out to the Kongsvagen. We got all our gear together fairly quickly, and were ready to go. The weather was warm, not a good sign, and it was drizzling rain, which made things even worse. This was a big change for me, since I'm used to working high on polar ice sheets, where rain is almost unheard of and the snow never gets wet.

the team assembled, ready to head out to the Kongsvagen.

We hadn't gotten far before we came to something else new to me, namely riding a snowmachine over topography; since the weather is so warm there is no ice in the fjord this year, we needed to traverse overland to get to the Kongsvagen, which involves going over a few fairly steep passes. As I had a heavy load to haul (geophysicists always seem to have heavy equipment), I had a big brute of a snowmachine, with an engine bigger than the one on my first car! Starting it up, it sounded more like a harley-davidson than a snowmobile. Fortunately with all that power I was able to get up and over the passes without much difficulty.

Then came the very soft, slushy snow on the other side. In order to stay on top of it and not sink in, it's important to keep driving very fast. We charged on, until we came to a wide section full of very watery, slushy snow. The lead snow machine was able to make it thorugh, but only with difficulty, and it was a very powerful machine with a very experienced driver. It didn't look very good for the less powerful machines and heavier loads. In addition, with the weather as it was, this section might well be impassible in the evening when we were heading back. It was time to regroup and decide what to do.

The team discusses the options.

We decided to head back to Ny-Alesund and hope for cooler, better weather tomorrow. 4 of the team would try in the afternoon to get over to the glacier for some mass balance measurements, not carrying heavy loads and taking a different route.

But it was not to be. On the way home we found that the snow had gotten softer at the steepest pass, causing trouble. We were able to use the powerful machines to bring the sleds over the pass, after a couple of failed attempts with the smaller snowmachines. But the least powerful machine of all just didn't seem capable of climbing the steep slope. Again and again we tried, but in the end it was decided that that machine would have to be ferried around on a much longer route, with fewer steep slopes. The plan for trying to take a lighter party of 4 to the glacier was cancelled, and the rest of us continued on home, to plan for tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2006

To the King's Road with the Norwegians!

Hello again! I'm back in the field, In Norway this time. Svalbard, Norway, to be exact. Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway, to be even more exact.

I'm here with the Norwegian Polar Institute, to work on the Kongsvagen glacier (literally translated as the King's Road). I'll be making density profiles along the glacier, using a borehole instrument called the Wallingford Neutron Probe. More about that later. For now, lets just get me to Norway!

The first leg of the journey is to get to Olso, because you need to spend the night somewhere along the way. In Oslo I met up with an old friend and former office mate Lars Karlof. After a nice evening with Lars, his wife, and 2 very cute daughters, it was back to flying. From Oslo, I flew to Tromso, in Northern Norway, then to Longyearbyen, the main settlement in Svalbard.

In longyearbyen a signpost tells the distance to various points.

Then from Longyearbyen, to Ny-Alesund, the research station. From here we will drive snowmobiles (the Norwegians call them 'scooters') about 25 km to the glacier.

This is the current webcam view from just above Ny-Alesund. As you can see it's a small place, but big for a field site!

On arrival, I learned that the weather is not terribly favorable. In this case, that means it's warm, which will make it difficult to travel, because the snow will be soft. If it warms up too much, we won't be able to get out to the glacier at all! To see the current temperature in our area, Click here.

Well, that's all for now, I'll let you know how it goes a little later!