79.68° North, 76.83° East – Foggy, 2.2 °C

First glaciological work on land accomplished!

On the afternoon of the 11 August, a team of five Russian, German and French scientists drilled two short ice cores on Graham Bell Island on the eastern side of the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Around noon, the complete ice cap was visible from the ship allowing for helicopter deployment of the team on the ice.

The ice cores were retrieved from the summit of Kupol Vetreniy, or “Windy Dome” in English, at ca. 515 metres above sea level. Kupol Vetreniy is an ice dome covering the southwestern part of the island.

The drilling process lasted roughly three hours, but was complicated by soft and wet snow close to melting point at the surface of the ice cap, and alternating layers of firn and pure ice below a depth of 1.1 metres. The drilling team nevertheless managed to extract two cores of 5.1 and 2.5 metres in length, as well as to sample and describe a snow profile.

The ice cores will serve as climate records. The length of the ice core should allow the reconstruction of the climate over the last five to eight years. This can be achieved through analysis of the geochemical properties of the ice, mainly the stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen.

The collected ice core is extremely valuable, as an ice core was previously retrieved at the same site in 1997, providing a regional climate record of approximately the last 800 years. The new ice cores will allow the recent dramatic environmental changes to be put into the long-term context.

Drilling of the ice-core on the summit of Kupol Vetreniy. © 2021 Christian de Marliave, all rights reserved
The ice core in the walk-in freezer of the ship stored at -15 °C. © 2021 Swiss Polar Institute, CC BY 4.0

Header photograph: Unloading the ice-core from the helicopters, safely stored in thermoboxes.
Rights: © 2021 Swiss Polar Institute, CC BY 4.0