Another Sunny Svalbard Day

View behind my building
View from my building this morning - I knew it was going to be another glorious day!

The weather was glorious all day - sunny and mild with a light breeze. An absolutely perfect day to be out on the fjord.

birds on the fjord
A wonderful day on the fjord for the birds!

View across fjord
View across the fjord on our way to the glacier.

Bringing Up the Mud

Today I had a chance to observe the "gravity core" team in action. Daren, Rachel and George have really perfected their method for getting core samples of the bottom sediment, so Julie and I swapped boats so I could take some photos of their work.

Our team has been using two different methods to sample the mud on the bottom of the fjord. One, which you may have read about in Liz's journal yesterday, is the "box corer". The box corer takes a sample of the surface mud. The second method is the "gravity corer". This method takes a narrow cylinder of mud up to about a meter long. This method allows you to see the layers of mud which can tell a great deal about how the release of sediments has changed over time.

Rachel and Daren are interested in looking at these changes which is why they took on the gravity coring for their projects. George has graciously been helping the two of them out as he's awaiting the repair of the echo sounder to work on his own project.

The gravity coring team!
The gravity coring team!

I was really impressed at the teamwork between the three of them. They each take on a role, know how and when to do what is needed, and communicate quite clearly with each other. The end result is that they have been able to get over 20 gravity cores in the past week. (Ross and Julie are indeed impressed by their work.) I've stressed the importance of good teamwork throughout my journals, but with a process as involved and physically demanding as the gravity coring, it's essential to getting good data. The device weighs around 40 pounds and it's a really awkward thing to get in and out of the boat. You don't want to have to repeat a bad core if it doesn't work properly!

I will let the pictures and captions tell the story of this process, which Rachel, Daren and George perform like a well-oiled machine:

strategy session
Rachel, Daren and George strategize for how to proceed with gravity coring today. They first consult their notebooks to determine which coordinates to head to first.

Setting the coordinates
George sets the coordinates on the GPS so Ross can drive to the location where they'd like to get a sample.

lowering the gravity core
Rachel lowering the gravity corer over the boat.

lowering the winch
Daren working the winch to lower the gravity corer down.

lowering the gravity core
Daren lowers the gravity corer to about 10 meters or so above the bottom, and then he lets it drop freely. The winch spins quickly, so Rachel will need to stop it with a piece of wood once the corer penetrates into the mud.

raising the gravity core
Raising the gravity corer is really hard work, so George helps Daren with the winch when it's time to raise the core. The corer is well over 40 pounds when you include the weight of the cable, and there's quite a bit of friction between the cable and the winch making it a challenge to bring up.

pulling in the gravity core
Rachel pulls the corer into the boat, fully loaded with sediment (hopefully).

holding the corer steady
George holding the coring device steady while Daren and Rachel get the sediment core ready to pull out of the device.

The three of them work amazingly well together to get the core (which is in a plastic liner) out of the metal coring device. George has to lift the metal device ~40 pounds high over his head to get it off the actual core sample.

sealing up the core sample
Daren now takes the sample and caps it and tapes it up to bring back to the lab.

gravity coring is messy!
Gravity coring is messy, muddy work!

successful coring!
The team proudly showing off one of the many successful gravity cores they obtained today.

sediment - yum!
Yum - Pudding… or mud?

A busy day for icebergs!

Because it was so sunny all night and into the morning, there was a lot of iceberg calving activity on the glacier margin today. All morning we heard the cracks and rumbles of the glacier, and we encountered several large events. For one we were close enough that Rachel had to work fast to pull up the gravity corer in time for the calving wave. Here's the video I managed to shoot of the calving event and the subsequent wave:


Much of this ice came out of two or three calving events that occurred in succession as we were setting up the gravity cores.

One of the many beautiful icebergs we observed today.

One of the many beautiful icebergs we observed today.

This large, beautiful iceberg has been hanging around for the past few days.

birds on iceberg
Birds flying off an iceberg as we drive by

A Night Hike

Tonight Liz, Rebecca and I took a night hike. Well, if you can call a hike in full sunlight a "night hike". We started around 8 pm, and got back at 9:30. I'm still not quite used to the 24 hour daylight!

We rode bikes out to the airport and then hiked for while over the tundra. We walked past a bunch of permafrost rock sorting features. These are amazing – due to freezing and expansion of the permafrost, rocks are sorted into ridges. Some of them are such regular shapes that you could swear they were left by some prehistoric people (they weren't of course – this is entirely due to movement of the ground due to freezing and expanding). I've been thinking quite a bit about the power of water to break down and move rocks due simply to the cycle of freezing and melting – but more about that on another day when I'm not quite so tired!

Liz and Rebecca inside permafrost rock sorting features
permafrost rock sorting
Me jumping between frost sorted circles of stones

permafrost rock sorting
More rock sorting features

shattered rock
On the side of a pile of rock completely shattered by freezing.

jump for joy!
Liz and Rebecca jump for joy with Ny Ålesund and the fjord in the background

jump for joy!
Same goes for me

79° 0' 0" N , 12° 0' 0" E
Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen
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Cool and Sunny
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