Scientists have a habit of looking at instruments and burying their themselves in data. This is all well and good for many, but for environmental scientists it sometimes pays to lift your head and look around. This came home to me very powerfully yesterday when we were circumnavigating the iceberg to do the scanning work, and spending a lot of time staring at the ice cliff, speculating on the various processes responsible for creating the features that we were seeing.
Ice cliffs have always struck me as some of the most stunning natural structures. The ice fronts of “our” iceberg are especially chiselled-looking, as if they’d been hewn out by a cubist sculptor. A freshly calved parts of the ice front are particularly sharply featured. Streams of surface melt run off the berg every few tens of metres, mostly small streams and trickles, but larger flows are occasionally also seen. The upper surface undulates gently, with continuous ice hummocks and ridges, perhaps ten or twenty metres across and a metre or two in height. The small streams we see at the edge of the cliffs run between the hummocks, with the occasional pond or small lake visible a hundred metres or so onto the berg.
Planning for polar fieldwork always has to remain flexible, and this work is no exception. The present idea is to moor the ship to the iceberg as soon as possible, and to start getting fuel and equipment ashore. What’s been delaying us is the poor visibility and the sea swell. The visibility means we can’t see bears, and the sea state makes it too dangerous to off-load personnel. The good news is that the weather conditions are due to improve over the next day or two; we shall have to wait and see what happens in reality.