The day began with the phone ringing early.... the phone in the tunnel is really a large electric bell that resonates quite loud. It is the Copenhagen group. They are eight researchers who have traveled here last night from the University at Copenhagen to look at the Svartisen Sub-Glacier laboratory. Dr. Miriam Jackson of NVE wants to promote the use of the lab to interested parties and has invited this group here to view the facilities and the ice. They are an diverse group of researchers, some established, some Post-Doc students looking for new ideas. Their research involves different things, such as drilling ice core samples in Greenland or computer modeling of ice flow. All of them are intensely passionate about what they do, and love the outdoors. We are only allowed to have 8 people in the lab, which is over a mile away up the tunnel, so I stay back as Miriam splits the group in two to give tours. Mark and Denis have been here for the last ten days take off back home. I take some time outside to just kick back in the sun.
I include a few photos of a slow Sunday, many of you have asked what it is like living here. First, it is dark. You cannot escape that. And the darkness really starts to get on your mind. It does make me wonder what space travelers will do about that. Lights compensate for it but still it is a feeling of constant night. As you enter the tunnel from outside you go up a corrugated pipe for a few hundred feet which opens up to a much bigger twenty foot tunnel. This was carved out by machine that deposited the rock out in the front of the tunnel. About three hundred feet up you come to a larger space where a small building has been erected inside a cave like structure. It is on pedestals above a bunch of machinery and junk. You hear the dripping of water everywhere, the ground is wet and muddy in spots and you smell the aroma of the septic system. Next to it is an identical tank used to store the drinking water that drips from the ceiling. There is a safe room for fire, and there is an ATV for hauling heavy things only. As you walk up the stairs you are in a small building, with four dorm rooms, a kitchen (no oven) a bath and a shower. The mud room/entry way has all the boots and helmets, including a charging station. It has an interesting feature, you do not turn off your helmet light when you charge, it does it for you automatically, if the power goes out to the charger the light on the helmet turns on. There are lots of safety features like this in the tunnel. People take turns cooking. The food is mostly bread and salami, the refrigerator is a table outdoors. The sleeping area has bunk beds which makes it easy to sleep, much nicer than camping!
If you want to go to the lab, you must check-out and walk the mile or more up the tunnel system. It is uphill! This brings you directly beneath the center of the glacier. There is a large cement wall at the end of the tunnel to prevent water from spilling in. Everywhere you hear the rushing of water from the side tunnels going to the power station. The lab is like a large mobile home. There is running water and power, there is lots of equipment, such as melting hoses, heaters, pressure washers, ladders and more. There is also a lunch room where we break to stay warm and dry and relax a bit. If you want to do research where the glacier is you must cross into the glacier stream, walk through the rocks and up about five stories into the ice cave, it is a tiring walk if you are carrying the heavy stuff. The living and working conditions are very comfortable, you do not feel stressed at all, you really only want to see the sun which is just a twenty minute walk away.
In the evening we all go back to the ice cave one last time. All the sensors are in, everything is the best it can be. Now the time comes to shut the two shafts for good. Everyone pitches in clearing out the small rocks left over this year from the glacier. You do not want to open the door next year to tons of rocks, so by removing them now you hope that the cavity will fill with ice instead of sediment. The work is much easier this time around then when we first opened the door. Hosing off the debris turns the space into a steam bath, it is really difficult to see anything. The door is sealed using steel I-beams. And that is it! No more glacier ice for a whole year! The goal now is to let the glacier flow ice into the cavity and hope the instruments keep working. We plan on heading down the hill to the cabins below to wait it out. I will likely head back to Oregon rather than come back up to evaluate the next stage which is the pump tests, a critical time when water is pumped under high pressure from pipes below to induce slipping of the glacier.