Conduits, by Blair Hensen

Forward by Aria Thomases

In February 2011, in a classic last-minute “run to the sun” move, Eli and I found ourselves aboard one of Air China’s final flights

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to Asia. For several weeks we travelled across Thailand and Vietnam celebrating our honeymoon. We were in Halong Bay, Veitnam checking out caves and climbing spots when we crossed paths with a delightful college gal from the Lower 48, Blair Hensen. As summer 2012, we were lucky enough to


We were setting up the first work site when the first shift happened. The sound sent shivers as swift as the ice splitting beneath our feet. The ice was moving, cracking, and breaking with us. Billy and I were traveling along the Kennecott pharmacyexpress-viagra Glacier to re-drill GPS monuments into the ice to measure the glacier’s velocity. The alien-looking probes were now sticking out twelve feet from the ice surface, indicating about that much melt since May, when the monuments were installed. Billy Armstrong, a PhD candidate at University of Colorado at Boulder, is part of a team studying the relationship between subglacial cheapest viagra online hydrology and basal sliding on the Kennecott Glacier. As an intern at the Wrangell Mountain Center, I volunteered to help Billy carry gear and re-drill four of the team’s GPS monuments to learn more about the research being done in this area. I was excited to go out on the ice, and carrying steam drill (that Billy insisted was “light”) and drilling seemed to be an easy enough exchange.


This trip was my first cialis discount overnight on a glacier and my first significant amount of time spent with ice. In preparation, I brought plenty of rainproof layers, sturdy boots and a Ziploc bag of tissues to last me the two days. The goal for the trip was to make it to four of the team’s sites, each about two miles apart, to reset everything for the rest of the season. When we got the first site our socks were already drenched from the multiple river crossings it took to get to there, and the katabatic winds were sending shivers through my five layers designed to keep weather and water out. Upon arrival Billy recorded things like the battery charge and melt distance, while I set up the steam drill and helped remove the metal poles from frozen ice. By then I was already in close contact with my tissues as the wind was creating a nice constant stream coming from my nose, much like the streams Billy and I were starting to hear under our feet.


While Billy and I took turns steam drilling multiple twenty-foot holes into the ice and wiping our noses with my depleting tissue bank, he explained the gear to my non-science brain. At each site the team is measuring the ice surface velocity, or daily ice surface movement, and is equipped with ultra-sonic sensors that measure surface melt and temperature. The equipment is run by solar panels attached to PVC pipe drilled about twenty feet into the ice. In addition to the GPS monuments the group has five water pressure loggers, or transducers, placed at Hidden Creek, Jumbo Creek, in a moulin, at Eerie Lake and at the Kennecott outlet stream to measure pressure, temperature and water level fluctuations. By placing all these instruments the team is gathering “ground truthing” evidence for how glaciers dispose of melt water. Little did Billy and I know we would be collecting a new kind of “ground truthing” mid-way through the first drill, while the power supporting the data recording was turned off.


The sound startled us, as it was loud, and instantly followed by unseen rushing water. I looked at Billy for consolation hoping this was just typical glacier behavior, but his eyes told me he had not felt or heard this kind of cracking before. Looking back, the sound and feeling of the ice splitting that way is hard to describe, for it is unlike any sound I had heard before. When we first heard it I thought it was paper ripping or our tent sheering, but perhaps the best way to explain it is supersonic cracking plastic. The noise surrounded us for about twelve hours, waking us from our few hours of sleep. When we arose we spotted multiple one-inch cracks running perpendicular across the ice, including one right below our packs resting along side the tent. Deliberation about the cause of this activity came down to an exciting hypothesis; Hidden Creek Lake must be flooding.


Hidden Creek is dammed by the Kennecott glacier forming a lake that bursts every year in mid-summer, and has been recorded in doing so for over a hundred years. This glacial lake flood is called a jökulhlaup, an Icelandic term meaning glacier leap or outburst flood. The rapid movement is a big part of what Billy’s team is studying as they are looking at the relation between water and sliding on the Kennecott glacier. Glaciers move in two ways. The first is due to its slope where the ice acts fluid-like and pushes forward like a viscous honey. The second is by basal sliding, where the base of the glacier will slip across the underlying bedrock and slide the ice forward. Water pressure at viagra canada the glacier kamagra 100mg bed can buoy the ice up and allow it to more easily slide down valley. During the Hidden Creek Lake outburst flood, ice velocity on the Kennecott glacier can rise to about ten feet a day, a dramatic increase over its usual one to two feet a day seen throughout the rest of the melt season. Once the ice dam bursts, it will only be a matter of hours before the people viagra canada of McCarthy see the flood and head straight to the Kennecott riverbank to celebrate in awe as the water wall crashes in sweeping away banks and rising about fifteen feet in about twelve hours.


When we started the trip we had no way of knowing when the dam was going to crack or for sure if it had while we were working, all we could do was gather surface suppositions based on the ice’s behavior. On the second and final night after we had finished all the re-drilling, Billy and I grabbed our ice axes and started making our way towards Hidden Creek. The crevasses and moraines in the location we were crossing were too severe to make it the whole way, but we made it to a spot where we could see and hear massive icebergs crashing and falling into each other. The sound reverberated off the valley walls. It was concluded, the lake had drained, and in the morning we would walk back down to town and see the river and the risen water level. Billy and I may have missed the flood party and some of the velocity measurements in one of the six GPS sites, but the reality is variables are always changing and in Billy’s words “field work is messy.”