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Ice detectives

When you work as a scientist on the world’s second largest ice sheet, here are some daily tasks:

  1. Hike. For miles. Sometimes after midnight. Through rivers of melted water or over rough, rotten ice that may crumble or simply sink under your feet.
  2. Look at features on the ice, noting their locations on handheld Global Positioning Systems. Compare those to notes from previous years. These notes provide clues that help scientists understand how, where, and why the ice is moving.
  3. Download data from instrument towers. Scientists placed these metal towers here two years ago. Since then the instruments faithfully (and fortunately) have been recording temperature, since the scientists last checked them.
  4. Start removing these towers, as funding for the project runs out after this year.

We began the hunt for answers to a more immediate mystery. When we flew to our camp, scientists were surprised to see that massive South Lake, which formed when spring and summer sun melted the ice sheet surface, still bulged with water. Scientists had expected it to have drained by this point in the season. A four-hour hike that ended at 12:36 a.m. provided a glimpse at where some of this water is flowing.

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »

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