Hi Antarctica Aficionados!
Some people boast that they have a swimming pool, pond, or woods in their backyards, but how many can say they have an honest-to-goodness glacier? (See the big, white sheet of ice behind Palmer Station.)
We can go out the back door, and walk to the edge of our glacier, called the Marr Ice Piedmont. It covers Anvers Island, where Palmer is located, and is 2000 feet (600 m) thick in the center. The glacier is both a beautiful and a frightening neighbor.
It is beautiful on some clear summer nights when the glacier glows “pink.” The soft light makes me wish I could paint, capturing the lovely colors on canvas.
The glacier’s edge is a beautiful place to camp, too. I slept in this tent for a few nights. The first night I was cold, but after that, I learned to how to stay warm — 2 sleeping bags, a down comforter and a hat did the trick for me! I greatly enjoy the solitude and majestic views. However, the nights are not quiet. I can hear the elephant seals blustering on nearby islands and the constant glacial calving (chunks of ice falling into the ocean). When the glacier calves, there is a deep rumbling that can be heard (and felt) for miles. A very lucky photographer might actually get to capture the awesome view of collapsing ice and the resulting wave of water on camera. My friend, Chris, got some great video footage that I have incorporated into a movie that I’ve made. It is called, ”A Day in the Life of a Bugger,” and describes what our insect research team is doing in Antarctica. Here’s the link, if you’d like to check it out.
The “frightening” aspect of the glacier is that it is unpredictable, as new cracks and crevasses (valleys in the ice) can occur from one day to the next.
Many of us at Palmer love to hike the glacier whenever we can. I am always surprised at how “alive” the glacier seems as I climb. I can see water running under the ice, and hear it trickling.
The safety team has posted flags to mark a safe path, but we must still be on the lookout for crevasses. We always hike with a friend, sign up on the destination board to let staff know we’re out, and take our radios when we go up to the glacier.
If there’s a problem, a snow-mobile is parked on the glacier so rescuers will be able to get to the scene quickly.
This is a view along of the shore of Arthur Harbor in our backyard. It is just under the edge of the glacier.
I am surprised by how much water flows out from under the ice. The waterfalls and calving are reminders that this glacier is retreating. It has been since 1965 — at a rate of about 33 feet per year (10m/year). This is caused by the warming temperatures in this region of Antarctica.
More on this HOT TOPIC in my next blog.
For now, stay warm, wherever you are.
This is Polar Pat, signing off.