Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Exciting Encounters

Hello from Svalbard! Day three of the tent camp, the weather was perfect for a long hike – no wind, no burning sun, no rain. We headed north east from our camp towards a glacier called Svenbreen. Our scientific aim was to date the age of the moraine, which is debris deposited at the end of a glacier.

When a glacier retreats, the moraines show us where previous glacier fronts were, giving us an idea of the rate of retreat.

Along the way we had several exciting encounters...

First we had river crossings, where we got to experience first hand the icy cold glacial melt waters.
Next we found the remains of Soviet surveying equipment, reminding us that we are not the first visitors here.

After that we were in our very own episode of Animal Planet. We had gained a tiny fluffy follower for a short while, before nature took its course. The goose chick became the main course for a hungry Arctic fox.

Next came the rocks, and the adrenaline rush of the day, a rock slide! Our quick thinking leaders led us to safety.

The climb was steep and difficult, but well worth it. The view was incredible! For many members of the group this was the first close up experience with a glacier. This glacier has not retreated very much due to the surrounding topography. However the view of the valley next door told a different story. According to a previous map, thirty years ago we would have been looking at a glacier front. As you can see in one of the pictures, no ice to be seen! It has retreated roughly 2 km in those thirty years.

We returned worn out but happy and hungry. We finished the day by celebrating the 4th of July by playing the Swedish game of Kubb!

Group 3, signing out

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who traveled during summer 2013 to Stockholm, Sweden and Svalbard, Norway to participate in the interdisciplinary course, “Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic,” provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-organized with KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Course participants from both universities learn about issues related to climate change and the Arctic, capped by an excursion to conduct field research near the Arctic Circle. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant, and is an initiative of the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational Research Exchange (INSPIRE). Student blog entries also appear on the web site of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

Photo: "Glacier near Infantbreen, Svalbard," (c) 2012 Superchilum, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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