After studying the theory of calving glaciers for almost a year, it was very impressive to see a calving glacier in reality. I did not expect the sound of icebergs breaking off and falling into the sea to be that loud. It is almost like hearing a thunderstorm. Since Eqip Sermia is a very active glacier, we could hear this very often, about every five minutes. Sometimes, there was a chain of events, one after the other, which could go on for over ten minutes. Then, when the icebergs fall into the sea, they produce huge tsunami waves, which can be up to fifty meters high at the glacier front. We had our camp about four kilometers away from the calving front. Once the sound reached us, the icebergs had already broken off and the only thing we could still see was the seawater splashing up in the air and the icebergs floating away. To see a calving event happening, you have to stare at the calving front and be patient. That is what I did during the moments when there was nothing to do, for example when our drone was in the air above the glacier, flying the planned survey with the autopilot.
Eef van Dongen is a PhD student at ETH Zurich. This field note relates to her field trip to Eqip Sermia Glacier in West Greenland during the summer 2018 funded by a Polar Access Fund grant.