Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Whittled Away

We can walk alone in the Taylor Valley, attached to civilization by a radio. Stretching legs, you wonder what you are doing heading out into the striking landscape, so whittled by the elements. The winds or snow set in at you feel changed by the mesmerizing power. You know you will make it back to camp, but shudder. So thankful that your body is fueled by sugar and motion. This is not our permanent camp, especially, in a timescale of millions of years- the age of the oldest exposed terraces. Small resilient creatures thrive here, their bodies joined to rock and sediment, or entombed in ice to revitalize for a few watery blinks every year. Some ancient and some newly birthed, a mystery to solve. Their persistence endures.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What the glacier tells us

We've had a great deal of melt over the last few days. The lower Canada Glacier has swift streams and ponds collect in pools, that pour from their pinched outflows. Sediment melts into the glacier and creating pocked surfaces and odd meltforms. All this water means that a whole lot of science is underway. Liz Bagshaw (Martyn Tranter's dissertation student) is examining nutrients and other chemical info in cryoconite holes, the ice-lidded tombs that form from sediment melting into the glacier surface. Matt Hoffman (Andrew Fountain's dissertation student) is working to understand and model how glacier melt occurs on polar glaciers and what this means for lake levels. I spent much of yesterday collecting trace metal samples from the streams and lakes on the glacier. (I collected the inflows and outflow from the large pond in several of the above pictures along with several more isolated cryoconite holes).