New visit to Svartisen

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Sunday 11th November - Written by Miriam Jackson

It’s a dark and icy start to our latest visit to the subglacial laboratory under Svartisen. This time there are four of us working here – and four nationalities – British, German, French and Dutch. We are here to do some more experiments for Pim’s PhD work. It’s his third visit to the laboratory to perform experiments and he’s starting to get the hang of things. We will also take some samples of the subglacial ice and it’s a chance for Dutch science journalist, Paul, to visit the laboratory.

(Foto: (Photo: Miriam Jackson))
(Foto: (Photo: Miriam Jackson))

The German is PhD student Thomas, who usually observes glaciers from the comfort of his own office with the help of satellite images for his doctoral work, has now joined us to help out and get a very close-up look at a glacier.

We fly up to Bodø on Sunday, and land in a very mild and wet Bodø. The temperature and road conditions vary on the drive south to Svartisen, but it stays above zero although there’s evidence of lots of recent snow. We wonder about the walk up to the tunnel entrance tomorrow – we were expecting deep, new snow from the weather the previous week, but now it looks like it’s going to be deep, wet snow – and probably an unpleasant walk.

In a change of plans from our usual routine, instead of staying in a hotel in nearby Glomfjord, and crossing the fjord early the next morning, we decide to stay in a cabin near Engabrevatnet, the lake that is just in front of Engabreen. Our first challenge comes when we try and park the car. The parking area near the boat dock is little used at this time of year, and hasn’t been cleared of snow. We get stuck in the wet snow and as it’s getting late and we hear the boat arrive, we abandon the car halfway into the parking place. We slide down the icy bank to the boat dock and find the welcome sight of the boat all lit up in the evening darkness, and can carefully make our way onto the boat. After explaining the car problem to the boat driver, we hand him the car keys in case the car needs to be moved while we are up in the subglacial lab.

The boat makes its way across the dark fjord and soon we are unloading our gear. It’s only a short walk to from the dock to the cabin, but the road is icy and dark. We change into our mountain boots and dig torches out of our rucksacks.  After 20 minutes we arrive at our very comfortable cabin for the night. Tomorrow we will try for an early start on our walk up the mountain. With a bit of luck we should arrive there by early afternoon, and have enough time and enough energy to make a good start on our work.

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