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Fieldwork – the fun and games have begun

7 August 2014

Finally, we’ve been let loose! This also means that this post might be a bit shorter as, well, I’m really really tired and with field days running quite long I need to get to sleep before long! However, here’s a quick run down of what we’ve been up to in the past two days.

Yesterday (06/08)

First day in the field! We optimistically packed A LOT of equipment and went off to Endalen. Firstly, this involved me getting a car. Said car turned out to be a rattling 10-seater van. Cue *gulp*. But in an eternal state of optimism I took the keys and loaded in the merry field party. Naturally doing things like taking off the handbrake quite slipped my mind, but after an interesting start we finally were on our way.


Oh yeah, and there’s only tarmac roads in Longyearbyen, after that it’s dirt tracks. This resulted in me driving along, braided streams and tundra on one side, glacial lake on the other, elevated dirt track in between and the sun shining. Quite possibly one of the best car rides I’ve ever experienced. Though thank goodness I did an extra driving course the week before departure as clutch control came in handy….

Anyway, enough about the car, let’s talk about the Henge. Or, Endalen as it’s actually called. So it turned out to be not quite what I had expected. Cue, panic. Well, not really panic, but certainly a necessity for creative thinking. That said, while the rock outcrops I was hoping for might not have been there it is hard to argue with this landscape:





So we divided some tasks – I initially scrambled up the scree slopes in an attempt to get to the exposed bedrock at the top. This was an epic failure in the health and safety department, after getting most of the way to the top I realised that pretty much all the rocks were loose and starting to tumble so I had to turn around. So, polar bear watch it was.


But I also did my first water sampling to get the lithium and magnesium isotope work on the way. This was my commute to the office; the 10m slide down the bank was really fast. The way back up is probably best described as extreme flailing of arms and legs to work against the sediment and rocks sliding down. Got there eventually.



Meanwhile, Huw and Amy were working hard to get scans of the slopes and do rock surface hardness measurements (and were clearly much more dignified in their field approach than I was)



We had to be back by 5 otherwise a search party would have to be mobilized (UNIS has a very thorough and efficient system for keeping track of people in the field) so we packed up, hiked 1,5 hours back across the bogs and scree slopes and went almost straight to the bar for a well-deserved beer.

Today: (7/8)

After yesterday’s exertions we decided to do more work in the mouth of the Endalen catchment, to try and stretch out sore backs, legs and shoulders a bit. So, not the most eventful day but we got a lot of good work done. We had to set off late because of tomorrow’s potential boat trip taking up a lot of time in the logistics and health and safety department (more about that in a later post) but we got a lot of scanning done and the first ERT transect of the trip. We’re doing these measurements to get a better idea of how moisture movement through the slopes is causing (or at least accelerating) solifluction, to support Huw’s work on topography and active layer detachments. It was really great working with my beloveth ERT again, though in a slightly different format than I am used to!



In the meantime, Huw spent some time digging up the slopes of Endalen while a reindeer kept a close eye on the proceedings.





The day finished with me once again sliding down a river bank to get water samples, this time from the mouth of the Endalen streams to get a better idea of the total sedimentation that comes out of the catchment.



This water is cold. Really really cold. As in, straight from the glacier sort of cold (also known as 3.4C cold, in case you’re interested!). But freezing hands aside I got the samples I needed complete with pH, conductivity and temperature measurements. These samples are now filtering in the laboratory to get the coarse sediment out, while some are in the fridge waiting for titration (I’ll explain more about that once I’ve properly gotten into the lab work).

Right, on that note, alarm is going off at 6:45 and we’ve got a long day sailing to Hiorthamm and then a 2 hour hike across fluvial fans and bogs ahead of us tomorrow (with stacks of equipment again). Time to get some sleep!



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