This picture is one of my favourites. Once we had finished our work at science camp we had to pack it all down and move off to base camp II on the northern coast of Nordskioldland. By this time, everyone on the expedition, except me, had been to the coast and spent time at base camp II, while I had been up at science camp. I had heard all about the birds and the ice bergs and the beluga whales and the walruses and how Spring had arrived, while up in the mountains there was very little wildlife, and it was still quite wintry. I hadn't minded at all, but I guess I had been getting excited at the prospect of seeing another area and doing more mountaineering and exploring. So it was with a very happy heart and slight holiday feeling that I woke up on this col, on our first morning away from science camp, on our way to the coast. This is Kath and I melting snow for our breakfast. Thanks to Steve for the picture.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
After the slush flows we went back to the tent-tipi to discuss what we'd seen and try to draw some conclusions regarding the initiation of slush flows. One hypothesis that was put forward suggested that the pool that had burst its banks had acted as a trigger. This then lead to the question of why there was a pool there in the first place, when the surrounding area was still fully frozen. We knew that there were some hot springs in this part of Svalbard so, motivated by thoughts of washing in pools of steaming clean water, we set to work searching for Tobredalens first spa. Towards the end of our time in Tobredalen we did find a mound with a large fissure through the middle. The smell was very distinctive, and apparently (according to Jamie and Steve, our amateur geologists) there were several features characteristic of fresh water springs. Unfortunately, our time ran out but hopefully next years expedition will be able to investigate further, and may even be able to enjoy the hot spring baths were dreamt about! This photo shows the entrance to the fissure.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 12:13 pm
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Tobredalen valley minutes after the slush flow. This was the big event we had been hoping to witness. Every Spring, as the temperatures increase, the snowpack becomes more and more waterlogged. If the snowpack is on any gradient then the water can flow away. The main Tobredalen valley is very shallow, no more than 1degree, so any excess melt water is unable to drain away. The day before a small pool slightly up valley of this point had burst its banks and melt water had begun to flow into the main valley. At 12:10 the extremely waterlogged snowpack in Tobredalen began to flow down stream, carving out a river channel in the snowpack and depositing huge amount of slush on the banks. Within minutes the valley had gone from ordinary snowpack to huge river- it was very exciting.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 11:59 am
Monday, May 17, 2010
While at Science camp Pete had to pop down to base camp II to pick up some software, drop off our rubbish and pick up some food. This is an 8 hour round trip and while he was out he managed to get this wonderful picture of an Arctic reindeer. During our first few weeks on Svalbard, before any birds arrived, these were the only form of life we saw so we all become rather fond of them. They are incredibly hardy, continuing to feed all through the winter by scraping at the snow with their hooves to get to the tundra below. By the Spring they are so weak, and sadly, we saw many corpses. This one is still young as it has no antlers, but even the full grown ones are not much larger than a sheep. Thanks to Pete for the picture.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 12:34 pm
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Pete took this photo from one of the peaks (Ottofjellet) that overlooked our camp. To the left are our five tents with pulks dotted around. To the right is our tent-tipi. This was fantastic, we dug benches out and would sit inside every evening for sit-rep, dinner and a game of werewolf. It was also a wonderful retreat in bad weather when our tents got too claustrophobic. Further right, the two snow blobs are urinals and the last tent was our poo tent. Luxury! The blue blob in the foreground is our food and science equipment stash, wrapped up in a tarpaulin. Thanks to Pete for the photo.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 11:13 am
Our food came in daily ration packets, that had been packaged and produced by a specialist company. Jackie was in charge of food for the entire expedition and had left huge stashes in various locations in Nordskioldland. In general, we would usually take 2 weeks worth of food at a time, and store it in our pulks. The picture above shows our daily ration, which one of the doctors estimated to be about 5000 calories. I really liked the food, it was exactly what you wanted and cravings for peas and orange juice didn't really kick in until the end, when the temperatures began to increase. There were four different dinners and puddings so it didn't get too monotonous, and we became pretty creative. Special mention of Ade's After Dinner Mints should be made here (thinly sliced mars bar smeared with toothpaste). Daily food ration from top left: two little cheddars, packet of kleenex, breakfast (wheat based porridge), dinner (lamb pilaf), pudding (apple and custard), tea bags, 2 flapjacks, packet of raisins, dry roasted peanuts, mars bar, twix, two packets of oat biscuits, 3 portions of hot chocolate, b-fuel (beetroot based powdered squash), sugar, creamer, portion of jam. Thanks to Ant for the photo.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 10:53 am
Friday, May 14, 2010
Part of the glacier survey required us to dig pits to the surface of the glacier. Polar Pete had once seen someone dig two pits next to each other with about a foot between them. If dug at the correct angle then it is possible to have the sun illuminating the wall, highlighting the layers in the snowpack. So, once the science work was complete, Polar Pete set to work. We covered the first pit with bags and jackets and then crawled in to see the result. Thanks to Ant for the photo.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 8:18 am
Leader Matt, Ankur and Fraser mapping the glacier. This shows Fraser with the rover. Leica have developed a system whereby you can carry the unit in a backpack and operate it from a small controller. Because we were working on a glacier we needed to be roped up. Starting at the edge of the glacier the leader would walk out until the rope went taut, they would then take a snow depth measurement with an avalanche probe and mark the point with an X. They would then either shout the measurement to the person with the controller or, if it was too windy, write the number in the snow next to the marker. They would then move forward, until the rope went taut again. At this point the last person on the rope (the one with the rover) would have reached the marker and they can take the GPS measurement. Meanwhile the person at the front would repeat the process. This way, measurements were taken an equal distance apart (approximately 25m) each time. Thanks to James for the photo.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 8:14 am
This is the RTK GPS system that we used to map the glacier, kindly loaned by Leica. Our method was to walk all round the glacier taking GPS co-ordinates and snow depth measurements, to within 10cm accuracy. We could then create a 3-dimensional image of the glacier surface to compare to previous years, to see if the glacier was advancing or retreating. The GPS system comprises a base station and a rover. This photo only shows the base station, mounted on a tripod with a red battery and a blue radio. The radio communicates with the rover. Alone, the rover can only take co-ordinates to an accuracy of approximately 30m. Because the base station is stationary it is able to calculate its position to the required accuracy. The data from the rover is then processed relative to the base station position to ultimately produce GPS co-ordinates accurate to 10cm.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 8:13 am
Thursday, May 13, 2010
One of our projects was to investigate the formation of slush flows in the Tobredalen. A slush flow is a slurry of meltwater, snow and ice that flows down-stream like an avalanche. One way in which we decided to study this was to monitor the snowpack in the weeks leading up to the slush flow. As well as taking snowpack measurements every few days, every evening one person went out into the valley bed to take photographs from various vantage points, which is when I took this.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 7:45 am
Posted by Rosey Grant at 7:35 am
Monday, May 10, 2010
On the Monday Rein very kindly pulked over to Tobredalen with the remaining science kit which had been stashed at base camp 2. Since they had come all that way we felt we might as well make the most of their company, so we decided to host The 2010 Tobredalen Science Camp Winter X Games. Events included grand slalom, extreme pulking and survival-bag-cross.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 7:03 am
Saturday, May 08, 2010
On return to base camp the whole expedition regrouped. Ade breifed us on the plan for the next month. I was to go straight to Tobredalen, a valley a few days away, in Nordskioldland. This was to be the site for our glaciology and geomorphology projects. All fires would come up to Tobredalen for one week at a time so we could carry out the two main field campaigns. Isbjorn was the first fire to come to science camp. They were Flora, Fraser, James, Ant, Ankar and Sophie with Leader Matt and Polar Pete. Thanks to Ankur for the photo and to Polar Pete for the wonderful craftsmanship.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 12:32 pm
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
That evening we made it into Adventdalen and pitched our last camp as Polar Rev. The next day was a gentle pulk back down Adventdalen and over to base camp. Our return to base camp has to be another expedition high-light. We were the last fire back and so received a wonderful welcome, everyone looking slightly more rugged and all bursting with stories of their adventures. I'm sure I even heard a trumpet and saw a bit of bunting.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 12:19 pm
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
We woke the next morning to find patches of sunlight making their way in through the tent. After two days of pulking uphill through a storm I think we all felt a bit giddy to be waking up high on a col surrounded by mountains, snow and sunshine with a day of downhill Arctic pulking ahead. Matt pausing for a moment while breaking trail on our final ascent before descending back down Adventelva.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 1:22 am
Monday, May 03, 2010
The storm continued into the next day and unfortunately completely covered our tracks from the previous days which meant we had the arduous task of piste bashing through ("nipple") deep powder all the way back up to the col. It was an incredible effort, often requiring us to team up to push pulks up steep sections. The elation we felt at reaching the col that night was one of my expedition highlights. In celebration, Fraser divided up a salami that he had been secretly carrying round with him since we left England. Sitting in our tents, up on that col, having worked so hard to get there, eating salami- doesn't get much better! Thanks Fraser! And thanks to Zoe for this picture of us battling up the last stretch to the col.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 4:18 am
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Despite being the most motivated and energetic fire you could imagine, Polar Rev never made it to the east coast. We did however stand on a high point on the south bank of Kjellstromdalen and look in the direction of the east coast, and, if it hadn't been totally overcast, we might have seen it! That would have to be enough for us because we had only enough rations for four more days, and we had a good four days pulking to get us back to base camp. Unfortunately that night, the weather that had been brewing all through the day finally broke and we woke to our second Arctic storm. While it would have been nice to stay cosied up in our tents, we had to press on and battle back up Lundstromdalen in complete white-out. It was a very surreal experience, and our brightly coloured pulks and jackets made me think of blobs of oil paint on a completely blank canvas. It was worst for the person at the front, not only because they had to trail blaze but also because there was nothing to focus on. I found it made me feel a bit sick and ended up watching the tips of my skis. During a brief respite from the weather I took this picture of Zoe leading on up the river bed.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 1:51 am
Saturday, May 01, 2010
In a last attempt to make it to the east coast we ditched our pulks and set out on a day trip across Kjellstromdalen. This valley is hard to describe, it's vast and beautiful, certainly one of the most beautiful areas we saw during the expedition.
Posted by Rosey Grant at 2:00 pm