Sunday, April 4, 2010

Exit Glacier

We spent the last four days doing radio echo sounding work on the Exit Glacier near Seward, Alaska. Exit Glacier is one of the outlets of the Harding Icefield. It is quite easy to access, as a road leads to a National Park Visitor Center at the toe of the glacier. The road is closed in winter, so we used snow machines to access the bottom of the glacier and then proceeded on skis. The original plan was to fly to the highest part of the glacier and work our way down. But the weather was bad and the forecast didn't look promising, so we did it the hard way, and skinned up the glacier hauling our gear. There were five of us, Marijke and myself from UAF, Fritz, Mike and Chuck from the National Park Service. The goal was to measure the ice thickness on the Exit Glacier and along some profiles on the Harding Ice Field.

We had a nice tent camp at about 800 m elevation, from where we did daily trips with the radar equipment, dragging 30 m long transmitting and receiving antennas across the glacier. Every day the weather just kept improving and by Saturday we had a glorious day. We made it out just in time before the next weather system moved in. By Sunday morning there was snow and sleet in Seward, but by then we were on the way home.

Gearing up at the bottom of the glacier; no weather for flying.

Heading up Exit Glacier with sleds and heavy packs

Chuck likes digging, so we had a nice tent camp. Marijke and Chuck are getting dinner ready.
Pulling the radar sleds and antennas

The Harding Icefield
A view down Exit Glacier
Coming back down through the ice fall
The terminus of Exit Glacier, which has been retreating quite dramatically in the last decade or more.

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