July 10, 2012 Larsbreen Ho!
It may be kind of a finale killer to show the view from the summit at the beginning but, well, this one is an eye catcher so here it is.
Today's journal will be a short one due to the time necessary to pack things back up and head out at 9 am tomorrow by boat to Kappe Linne. Below you'll find a map of the Longyearbyen area and if you look just left of Barenstburg there is a small lake on the point. That is Lake Linne and our destination for the next month.
Today was set aside as sort of a buffer day and because we managed to get all our ducks in a row we took off for a hike. Starting at around 10 we met the students by foot at their barracks up-valley and began the ascent up to Larsbreen, one of two glaciers that can be seen from town. The trip was led by a Bates Alum and current UNIS masters student Wes Farnsworth who's sister, Lauren, is part of the AG 212 course joining us for the field season. Wes has been working on many projects including snow pack dynamics in periglacial regions.
The day turned out to be better than anyone could imagine with beautiful sun and absolutely packed with incredible glacial features. The views were great, spirits were high, and I managed to kick off an impromptu sliding adventure when I slipped then artfully road it out all the way down a snow-covered section of descent. Check out Dion following suit in the picture below.
The following pictures will detail a bit of the periglacial features. For reference, periglacial basically means near-glacier similar to if I refer to something being proximal I am referring to it being close to whatever landform or feature that is of note. First check out the deeply incised fan that is home to the meltwater stream draining Larsbreen.
Then, note the hummocky ground surface in the next two pictures. These show many small humps of sediment that formed as moulin kames, places where meltwater drained through the glacier and deposited sediment in bunches on its way out.
Next check the area in the direct center of the picture where there is something called a 'slump' feature. This is a spot where the ground basically just let go. To walk on this surface you realize just how active it is and constantly changing. There is a certain squish to the ground that anyone who's live in an area with at least seasonal frost knows. Even in the ice free valleys where you think everything is static, the hills slowly creep downslope in through a process called solifluction.
One thing that may escape peoples' notice just looking at these pictures is the fact that much of this dirt has ice beneath it, insulating it from the summer temps. You can see a spot where the ground let go in the picture below, exposing the ice to the atmosphere. Many of the large scale features that looks like just piles of dirt material are actually ice cored and quite active. In all reality, most could be called rock glaciers which is a term for something that has a mixture of rock and ice and exhibits glacier flow like characteristics.
Well, that actually turned out to be longer than I thought. Regardless, tomorrow should be an action packed day out to the field area and journals may get a bit more sporadic given the conditions. Take care all and if everyone could wish me a dry survival suit tomorrow I'd certainly appreciate it. Over and out...