The day started at 8 am with the regular meal of salami, bread and cheese... and then it was all work. We have to get water to the pump so that melting of the glacier ice can begin and lights to illuminate the tunnel. The water is brought up from the side tunnel that is used to funnel water to the power station, a simple sump pump works great and fills a small reservoir by the lab. It is really good tasting water although it has a lot of silt from the grinding of the glacier on the
bed rock. The power company makes sure to take the river of water flowing in the tunnel and let the silt settle in a collecting pond until it is sent down to the station. There is a catwalk where you can view it all. The lights illuminate a flight of some seventy stairs that lead to a really unlikely spot. At the top are two shafts, one horizontal with a steel door and another that is vertical about twenty feet up, both are sealed to prevent the ice from oozing in, you have to always remember we are six hundred feet below the ice. They were built so that Iverson's group could study the glacier by placing sensor into it. Right now the sensors are imbedded into the ice from last year and today the goal is to free them by beginning the melting process.It requires a lot of lifting, and I am the gopher to help carry it all the equipment up and down the stairs, a really good exercise for me. The vertical shaft is supported by a steel frame, at the top is an instrument panel that is wedged into the opening, it first must be heated with water so that it can conduct heat to the ice above. A hose that is similar to that used by fire fighters is aimed at the plate and left there for several hours. During that time a winch is installed that is anchored onto the granite wall, it is used to hoist the panel up and down.
To heat the water a large 800kw electric heater is used to exchange heat with the cold water from the glacier. This is an immense amount of electricity, approximately 1000 amps run through the wires to the main heating unit. The heating unit has a closed loop that circulates the hot water and exchanges the heat with the glacier water we get from the sump pump, it is very expensive process, and the bill on the energy use alone to heat the glacier will be on the order of three thousand dollars.The reason for using so much energy is because ice takes a lot of energy to melt, you might notice how long it takes for you to heat up an ice cube in your mouth until it turns into water, extra credit if someone can tell me how much energy it takes to melt a gram of ice and what we call this number.
While everything is melting we grab a lunch and then fix a few things in the lab. The removal of the steel wall is next. It is blocking the ice from getting into the tunnel. It is a series of steel I-beams braced by a cement wall. The sixty degree water that we are spraying has conducted enough heat to loosen the beams from the ice behind. After an hour of work the glacier barrier is free and I see for the first time the actual gentle giant of a glacier. I keep asking myself, how
did anyone dream up the idea of melting a glacier from underneath?
The vertical shaft is not so such an easy task. It requires hours and hours of spraying and bumping until it finally lets go of its grip on the ice. It is exhausting work until it frees up by ten at night. The entire vertical shaft is dismantled and the heavy instrument panel that was stuck up in the ice for over a year is brought into the lab for inspection and reloading of the sensors. I am impressed with the diligence everyone displays.