Sunday, 26 July 2015

Tsanteleina-Soches part 2. or - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the cable tie

A second visit to the Tsanteleina Glacier last week and there are many things that I could talk about, relevant issues about ice that is disappearing underfoot, melt channels that are multiplying dramatically in the response to a very welcomed high pressure 'heat wave' over much of Europe in the last month.

A small version of the many supraglacial melt channels on the glacier

A view down-glacier where the edge of the snow is very slushy and flowing quickly away

Perhaps I could discuss the general annoyance at losing personal equipment, super unstable tripods not really standing up as hoped or the fact that the Kovacs ice drill is the most poorly designed piece of equipment that one (or sometimes two) person(s) could ever hope for, particularly when hands are readily cooled by those lovely katabatic winds.

no..... none of that comes close to the positive outlook I have to share about my one fundamental ,supreme piece of equipment, without which my fieldwork on the Tsanteleina-Soches so far may have left me rather saddened....

YES, the cable tie... tie-wrap, hose-tie, zip tie or even zap-strap if you prefer... arguably the best invention in the history of the cosmos.  If I could travel back to 1950's America and hug inventor Maurus C. Logan I would!

After we had misplaced or tripod bracket for the dataloggers last month our faithful friend cable tie was happy to jump to our aid.  After timelapse cameras decided to film the floor for the last 3 weeks a daisy-chained nylon cable construction was ready to assist.

At least 10 cable ties here!

To maintain the measurement accuracy of our ablation stake measurements (to measure melt of the glacier), those beautiful cable ties kindly held individual 1 metre pieces together to reduce wind effects when melt out occurred.

considering only 1 of 12 T-logger stations survived the last month standing after the snow disappeared to reveal a less smooth ice surface, cable-tying small boulders around the legs of the tripod should hopefully help to keep them upright until next month's field visit.

It COULD work :)

And when my crampons sadly became damaged and left me a little teary, you can guess which magical item saved the day... day after day!

It was put forward by Penny, a friend and fellow glaciologist at the University of Edinburgh that Duct tape is a glaciologist's best friend in the field (her blog here).... and while I was once a believer, I think my 1000x assortment of Clas Ohlson miracles keep my science going far better!

Probably some cable ties in this snow pit too :)

So for your ice-lovers out there, whether you are hiking, climbing, skiing or establishing a network of detailed meteorological observations, buy some cable ties..... do it NOW!  GO!!!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tsanteleina-Soches (a.k.a Project carry-lots-of-stuff) - Part 1

If I had to use one word to describe my recent fieldwork to Italian Alps it would be:


After much reading on man-hauling sleds in excess of 100kg across the Antarctic Plateau or the Greenland Ice Sheet I thought shifting half a dozen steel tripods and logger boxes up some moderate glacier slopes would be a breeze!  I have never been more wrong.  In fairness, some of the slopes were a tad more than moderate, and the snow conditions were such that snow-shoes were over-kill and without all energy was zapped from your legs by the snow.

Nevertheless, me and my crack team of Chilean experts: Flavia Burger and Oscar Espinoza, were up to the task and formed what I believe to be the first British-Chilean Olympic snow sled team.

With Oscar harnessed to the sled arms and myself with a rope improvised to the back of my climbing harness we pushed on for 20, 50 or 100 steps at a time before an intermission of heavy panting and sweating... 'breathtaking' scenery.   Fair to say we earned the several mountains of food our chef cooked us back at the refuge.... an army of us probably would struggle to finish the resultant quantity if I'm honest... though it was powerful fuel for our early 9:30 bedtime.... starting the process again the next morning, and the next.

The field season was an 85% success in my view.  15/17 stations were set up and 1/4 of stakes drilled.  The main issue arised from the time of year and the general weather conditions.  Because the snow cover, rapidly melting away when the sun eventually made an appearance, only extended to the front of the glacier (being mid-June) and required a 2 hour steep walk with back-packs- bordering on the comical -loaded with equipment.

Glacier hides away over the crest.. the walk takes around 2 hours from the Refuge dey Fond

One day I was a Chilean ice-cream salesman with a logger box strapped to my chest, the next I was broadcasting a new Italian radio station from a 3m weather station tripod sticking of my bag or a 2m sled making me look like a fieldwork turtle.  I particularly welcome fellow glaciologists and their own accounts/pictures of funny equipment carrying.  My own personal account below.

A return visit in around 10 days from now will aid in finishing the setup and drilling some ablation stakes - previously halted by time constraints and super-dense and wet snow.  A visit to our two full weather stations, 'Eddy' (named for the Eddy Covariance instrument attached -the star trek style thing) and 'Juan' (named because it was the first generic Spanish name that came to me) should hopefully provide an initial insight into meteorological conditions for the glacier..... finger crossed for good data! :)

Massive thanks to my fantastic field help Flavia and Oscar (and for the photos!).