Tuesday, July 30, 2013

St. Jonsfjorden

Our first field day was supposed to take place in Poolepynten.  Most unfortunately, Poolepynten was completed shrouded in cloud base.  We went with Plan B, and headed to St. Jonsfjorden.  This delayed our field work by about an hour.  Here is where we headed:

When we arrived in St Jonsfjorden, I did something that I have actually never done before.  I worked an entire field day in the rain.

This was before the steady downpour began.  Thankfully, I borrowed rain pants from a friend before departing to Svalbard.  Rain pants are essential in the Arctic.  I also went ahead and bought some new field pants in Longyearbyen before we left for the cruise.  While the field work that we do in UH undergrad is (in my opinion) really fantastic, Texas and Montana field camps do not really prepare you for Arctic cold.  Just walking to classes in Longyearbyen was enough for me to realize that my usual desert field pants were not going to cut it.  I also rarely drank from my usual water bladder – each student carried a thermos with hot tea or coffee in it. 

My group was tasked with mapping and sectioning the southernmost moraines on St. Jonsfjorden.  Yuribia was part of the reporting group – she and her members used a theodolite to create a vertical profile across the raised beaches. 

The picture is slightly blurry because my camera lens was coated with water from all the rain.  We mapped the moraines using GPS waypoints, and discovered what may be a drumlin!

It’s the drumstick shaped landform in the southwestern corner.  Usually, moraines mark the limits of a glacier, laterally or terminally.  In the case of this area, however, properly callied Piriepynten, it is likely that the moraines are push moraines – they are essentially shoved up onto the beach from a previously advanced glacier.  Now that the glacier has retreated, these push moraines are left as relict positions marking glacial extent.  It is very cool to see the landscape in action.  Our field day ended earlier than expected, due to the uncomfortable rain conditions.  Sadly, due to the low cloud base, we were not able to see the actual glacier (Gunnarbreen, I think) while we were in the field.  We saw it hours later, as the boat was roaring away.  This beautiful view was behind us the whole time!

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