June 7, 2010

Ungulates and Undulating Ice

Today was full of wow! It was another day of driving, hiking, sun, and awe in the vicinity of Russell Glacier. On the way there we spotted our first real live musk ox, an enormous hairy mound of beast that seemed to remind everyone either of Snuffleupagus, a bantha from Star Wars, or Ludo from Labyrinth. This was followed by our first caribou, a young one with tiny velvety nubs of horns that ran toward us, around us, and off to the river again.

We stopped for lunch at part of the glacier that ends in a pool which emptying out into the river next to a really nice beach. The wind off of the glacier was bitterly cold, but once we got within fifty meters of the glacier, it blocked the wind and made plopping down on the glacial till for a sandwich and a Coke absolutely lovely. We sat around for awhile waiting for the glacier to cave, but no such luck. Extra-special bonus: first Gyrfalcon of the trip!

As we drove on, we also spotted a flock of what else but Canada geese. Kind of annoying, since we see them all the time at home, but neat since they were the first Greenlandic Canada geese of the trip (does that make sense?). We also spotted another duck, this one closer and in better light, but still from a moving car—my guess would be a male pintail, but I may correct that in a later post…

At last, we arrived at a spot from which we could hike out onto the glacier. At first, it looked like huge, random piles of gravel and mud, but as we went father, jumping across a shallow stream, the crunch of ice underfoot and the suddenly visible infinity short snowy spires and cliffs let us know exactly where we were. There was an abundance of melt-water streams with tasty cold, clear water—unusual this early, or so I'm told. The two professors on the trip that had previously visited the glacier commented that they had never seen streams this large or plentiful on the glacier before. We also found a moulin, or glacial mill, which is a large funnel in the ice where melt water streams drain onto the glacier bed below. Tomorrow we're camping, so I’ll be taking a brief hiatus. Cheers!  -Hannah


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The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.

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