The Secret Life of a Scientist at the End of the World
We climb glaciers and take minute measurements to understand the threats to our future. This is the story of my last, and most dramatic, trip to the Arctic.
Edited by Lynne Peskoe-Yang
It was 10 p.m. one night in June of 2008 and we were cut off from our on-glacier camp. When we’d left that morning, it was sunny and the glacier surface was crisp and crunchy, perfect for our plastic boots and crampons. My graduate student and I had decked ourselves out in hats and sunscreen to protect us from the sun’s reflection off the ice, then headed up-glacier to check on a weather station and a stream gauge to make sure we were ready to capture all of the data we needed once spring melt began.
It was a long day, and by the time we headed back down-glacier, toward our camp, my bad knee had started acting up and I couldn’t walk without pain. To make the situation worse, we realized that things had changed while we were away from camp. The warm day had melted the snow on the lower glacier, leaving a shifting landscape of ice slurries in hidden surface channels surrounded by small hummocks of solid ice. We got within 1,500 feet of our camp and couldn’t go …