Feature: Arctic Thaw

Measuring Change

“The glacier whispers to me”

by | 5.17.2010 at 6:27am | 1 Comment
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Terminus of the Russell Glacier (image credit Indrani Das)

Terminus of the Russell Glacier (image credit Indrani Das)

Having seen the Russell glacier from the air (May 13, 2010 blog post), several of us decided to travel the 35 miles by land from our Kangerlussuaq station with a local guide named Adam. Adam is from Southern Greenland and fills us in on local information. He notes in that area it is illegal to have dogs other than Greenlandic dogs. Greenland dogs are an ancient breed and adapted for pulling sleds and enduring the harsh Arctic environment. Greenlanders do not want to spoil their breed. Young Greenlandic dogs look like a baby polar bear, perhaps a suggestion of the breed’s toughness!

Finally we reach the terminus, or end point, of the Russell glacier standing tall with jagged edges and a rivulet of melt water flowing out the end. We could see water channels in the glacier jutting out with water flowing out of it in torrents. Talking to Adam I was amazed by his knowledge of this glacier. He punctuates the conversation by he pulling out his iphone to show us some amazing pictures of the glacier. I shouldn’t be surprised since he is a trained mountain and glacier travel guide and has spent a major part of his life climbing and guiding people on glaciers…a place where we return only once or twice a year.

This is where I saw again the control of water over nature. While we were walking along the glacier front, Adam suddenly noted that the melt water level flowing at the terminus decreased. “Keep watching,” he advised, as a portion of the ice front would soon collapse. The collapse results from chunks of ice breaking off somewhere along the ice wall, damming the flowing water and forcing it to find another way out. The new release will be through cracks in the ice front. Adam kept watching, claiming he could see the ice front move due to water pressure. I watched him…unable to see any sort of ice movement in the glacier. Yet we continued to hear deep rumblings…‘This is Afghanistan’, said Adam. Something was cracking open somewhere. Then, within a matter of ten minutes, the portion of ice front in the pictures collapsed. The water had found it’s way out…only to create another dam from the broken chunks of ice front that had collapsed. Although we didn’t wait to see what happened next, I know once again the water would find its way out and would crack open another weak spot in the glacier. ‘The glacier whispers to me’ is all Adam would say.

Russell Glacial Front starting to collapse (Image credit Indrani Das)

Russell Glacial Front starting to collapse (Image credit Indrani Das)

Russell Glacier continues to collapse (Image credit Indrani Das)

Russell Glacier continues to collapse (Image credit Indrani Das)

The end of this collapse of Russell Glacier's terminus (Image credit Indrani Das)

The end of this collapse of Russell Glacier's terminus (Image credit Indrani Das)

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One Response to ““The glacier whispers to me””

  1. There is only a whisper here and there about human population dynamics.

    Is a “spiral of silence” effectively vanquishing open discussion regarding scientific evidence of human population dynamics? Perhaps the last of the last taboos is human population dynamics.

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