Monday, 10 September 2018

‘Non-science day’ is a hiking day

It was a busy and short field season with many monitoring projects to squeeze in but we did have a few ‘non-science days’ where we went hiking and exploring including a hike to a periglacial lake. With 24-hour sun there was no rush to leave so it was 11:30am before we headed out to hike up and along East Ridge and over to the periglacial lake. Little did I realise how far and long this hike would be, it was 1:30am the following morning before we returned to camp! With the cold summer and hence low glacial river levels this year, it was easy to cross the Twin Glacier river at the braided delta as we headed east to the ridge. We climbed steeply up a heather gully stopping to look back down to watch a couple of pods of walrus in the fiord below.
Admiring the view of Alexandra Fiord and the Twin Glacier
river delta far below
from East Ridge .
Looking north from East Ridge across Alexandra Fiord, Buchanan
Bay and Bache Peninsula to the Agassiz Icecap in the far distance.
A view of the Dome, a dolomitic hill surrounded by granite across the
valley from East Ridge with glaciers stretching off into the distance.

The East Ridge drops precipitously to the valley of our camp affording spectacular views of the fiords and glaciers. Greenland could just be seen far off to the east across Smith Sound. We walked along the ridge top and then east to the highest point (700m), boulder hoping all the way across the rock-strewn ridge. Along the way we saw ptarmigan that we do not see in the valley, including 5 small chicks with mum in her summer brown plumage. I found some plant species that are rarely seen in the valley including the tufted saxifrage (Saxifraga cespitosa).
View of Prince of Wales Icecap from the high point on East Ridge.
View of Twin Glacier from the high point on East Ridge.

Finally, late in the afternoon we dropped over a rise to spot the periglacial lake far below. It was painful to lose so much elevation, knowing I would have to come back up but absolutely worth the effort. The periglacial lake was a stunning and magical place and oh so quiet. The lake is bound at either end by glaciers with steep, rocky hillsides surrounding the remainder of the lake. The lake flows out under one of the glaciers.
It was a long trek down from East Ridge to the periglacial lake far
below but well worth the effort to spend time at this magical spot.
Lit by a rare beam of sun, the glacier drops
vertically into the periglacial lake.
Icebergs reflected in the periglacial lake. The lake flows
out under the glacier at the far end of the lake.
Exploring the periglacial lake. A fin of ice that has broken off
one of the glaciers and grounded on the side of the lake.
The turquoise periglacial lake highlighted by
the submerged portion of icebergs.

We explored the lake for an hour and then started heading back home at 8pm. Not to worry – there is no getting benighted in the High-Arctic summer! As we arrived back at Alex, we stopped to take photos in the spectacular midnight light and skim stones in the fiord (why hurry home?!) before eventually cooking and eating breakfast burritos at 3 in the morning. Was this ‘brinner’ or ‘suppast’?!!
Midnight lookout across Alexandra Fiord from East Ridge.
Midnight lookout across Alexandra Fiord from East Ridge.

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