Icefield Inventions: Hand-Churned Ice Cream

by Carly Onnik

‘’Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." -Theodore Roosevelt

This quote is a JIRP mantra, and it comes in handy while living on a remote nunatak for two months with fifty scientists. It drives us to improvise to reach our goals. Looking around camp, it doesn’t take long to see such improvisations, which we affectionately describe  as ‘’JIRP-y.’’ The benches and counters are made of wooden skis; parachute-cord becomes clothes lines; rocks are seats; and used cans are mugs for students who've forgotten theirs.

Cooking on the icefield is no exception to this improvisation. We have a set inventory of food in each helicopter load with which the cooks can play. Between meals, we snack on pilot bread- round, hard crackers- topped with peanut butter and jelly. To spice up our diet, sometimes JIRPers have to get creative with our limited resources.

 A helicopter bringing in a fresh load of food to help the cooks with their improvisation.

A helicopter bringing in a fresh load of food to help the cooks with their improvisation.

At Camp 17, myself and a staffer, Allie Strel, decided to put a dream into action: to make hand churned ice cream. Molly Peek, Lead Logistician based in Juneau, had hiked in for a quick visit, hauling with her a gallon of heavy whipping cream in her pack. Allie and I set our sights on vanilla chai flavoring.

Each camp is home to a mix of antique machinery, objects and parts, legacies of JIRP's many years of programming. During staff training, Allie had discovered two ice cream makers at C17—one with a broken crank and one with a broken barrel.

We took the good crank, and the good barrel, and got to work.

Step 1: Scrub the rust from the inner barrel with vinegar and vigor.

Step 2: Reinforce the outer wooden barrel with metal wire for structural integrity.

Step 3: Affix the currently mismatched crank and barrel together, with a power tool to cut notches in the wooden barrel.

Step 4: Grease the crank with WD40 for smooth churning.

Step 5:  Guess the rock salt to snow ratio for the slurry that goes in between the inner and outer barrel.

Step 6: Insert ingredients into inner barrel, and churn!

 Author Carly Onnink and Grace Stephenson finish cranking the ice cream maker as excited JIRPers cue for ice cream. Photo by Hannah P Mode.

Author Carly Onnink and Grace Stephenson finish cranking the ice cream maker as excited JIRPers cue for ice cream. Photo by Hannah P Mode.

Like any true scientific experiment, we did not succeed first time. I had to explain to many JIRPers that the promised ice cream simply hadn't churned—yet.  Ally and I brainstormed possible variables and ways to set up our next trial. We decided to add more rock salt. A lot more rock salt.

We took turns churning, and as we did, asked each other, "Should it be creamy yet? Should we add more salt? Is this the right churning rate?" After half an hour, the creamy mixture was getting harder and harder to cranker. A third person needed to hold the lid down while we cranked, and then the ice cream was oozing out of the container.

 Carly Onnink celebrates a successful batch of ice cream on the icefield. Photo by Hannah P Mode.

Carly Onnink celebrates a successful batch of ice cream on the icefield. Photo by Hannah P Mode.

A sweet victory. JIRPers lined up with their mugs. We shovelled ice cream in. The sun was setting over the Ptarmigan side of the nunatak, and the moment seemed to capture another of my favorite JIRP mantras: 

success = talent x hard work [squared]

Outhouse Scribbles and Glacier Science

By Alex Cox, Princeton University

“What would you do for a Klondike bar?”

Everywhere you look on the walls of JIRP Camps, you can piece together a history of the expedition and its participants through scribbles and graffiti. In the outhouse at Camp 17, an anonymous JIRPer asked the above question - "What would you do for a Klondike bar?"

“Jump in Lake Linda,” someone wrote in reply.

Lake Linda is an ice-dammed lake at the southern end of Lemon Creek Glacier, which itself flows from south to north. It is visible from Camp 17 and from the outhouse window. It seems counter-intuitive to have a liquid lake this far from the terminus of the glacier, but it is all due to the slope of the ice.

 A profile view of Lemon Creek Glacier, showing the high point roughly 1 km from the lake, and the direction of water flow in the glacier.

A profile view of Lemon Creek Glacier, showing the high point roughly 1 km from the lake, and the direction of water flow in the glacier.

The highest point on the Lemon Creek Glacier is not at its top. Instead, the glacier rises from its southern end before gently falling to the terminus. On a glacier, water flows in the direction of the ice surface, regardless of the glacier's underlying rocks or where the water is located within the glacier.

The water that accumulates between the start of the Lemon Creek and the ice's highest point, about 1 km further down the glacier, therefore, pools into Lake Linda. This means that water is actually forced uphill at the base of the Lemon Creek into the lake, because the ice surface flows to Lake Linda even though the underlying topography does not.

When JIRPers arrive at C17 in mid-June and after a period of rain, the lake is usually full, at about 200m in diameter.

The conversation in the outhouse continued. In response to "Jump in Lake Linda," someone else had written: "But it's gone."

It's true - Lake Linda empties every summer, and if JIRPers are lucky, they witness this phenomenon. This year, we observed the lake drop dramatically over five days. We know for certain that the lake doesn’t solely disappear by evaporation, which means it must have a drainage. But where is the drainage? And where does the water go once it drains?

Glacial lakes like Linda offer scientists the opportunity to learn more about how water flows through a glacier.  This year, Dr. Kiya Riverman, returning faculty and member of JIRP's academic council, and Dr. Colin Meyer, both from the University of Oregon, joined us at C17. One of their first tasks at camp was to place a pressure sensor at the lake's bottom. Previous studies on similar lakes show a variety of ways that they can drain, and Linda is a mystery they would like to solve.

Here today; gone tomorrow-Lake Linda on 06/28 (left) and 07/03 (right) credit: Gryphen Goss) 

Pressure sensors can be as cheap as twenty dollars, and provide an accurate measurement of depth. This cheap tool gives us insight into the nature of lake drainage. Rivermen and Meyer's theory is that some kind of siphon is created when a channel in the glacier opens up. Much like a fuel siphon, this means that as long as the outlet of the channel is at a lower elevation than the start, then water will flow out the drainage, regardless of if it must go uphill.

The data they retrieved seems to back up this initial hypothesis and goes some way to explaining the mystery of this lake. The rate of drainage increased over the four days that the sensor was in place, which suggests that the area of the channel that drains the lake also increases over time.

"Don't worry, it'll be back," is the last addition to the outhouse wall conversation. As predictably as it drains, Lake Linda will fill again for another cohort of JIRP students to observe and inquire about.

But what we have shown in just a few days with a cheap sensor, is that a testable hypothesis can go a long way in answering a scientific question.

I’ll have my Klondike bar now.

 Outhouse ponderings- graffiti on the wall of the ‘double-wide’ outhouse, Camp 17.

Outhouse ponderings- graffiti on the wall of the ‘double-wide’ outhouse, Camp 17.

#1 Tip for Life at Camp 17

By Marisa Borreggine, Harvard University

There’s little that can prepare you for life at Camp 17. The days here are tinted with transition, as we adjust to the weather, the chores, the nonstop outdoor activities, and living with each other. Surviving and thriving in this unfamiliar environment is a fine art, so I asked both seasoned and new JIRPers, "What is your best piece of advice for thriving at Camp 17?"

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Annika Ord, current camp manager / field staff – “Don’t let the weather get you down. Without these conditions, we wouldn’t have these glaciers or these mountains. You have to appreciate the constant storm that is Camp 17, take it in stride, and still have the best time. There’s something about being out in a storm that makes you feel so alive, and it makes the sunny days total gems.”

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Carly Onnink, UNC Chapel Hill ’20 – “Have a 15 degree rated sleeping bag liner, that way you can sleep in less clothes and then you will stay warm and your clothes won’t get nasty.”

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Andrew Opila – “If it’s not raining, sleep outside.”

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Eric Zhu, UNC Chapel Hill ’20 – “Keep one pair of dry, relatively clean long underwear to wear as your camp clothes, that way you can be dry when you get off the glacier.”

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Bertie Miller, Williams College ’18 – “Gotta have a funky shirt.”

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Grace Juneau, Skidmore College ’20 – “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”

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Alex Cox, Princeton University ’20 – “Bring food that comforts you. For me, it was Cadbury dairy milk and tea.”

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Abby Case, University of Aberdeen ’22 – “Pain is temporary.”

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Alex Burkhart, Field Staff – “Dry your socks.”

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Marisa Borreggine, Harvard University – “Any time I’m feeling down, or tired, or sore, or hungry, I remind myself to look around and appreciate the people living this experience with me. JIRP is about the Juneau Icefield, but it’s the people that make it all worth it.”

Staff Week 2018

Hello from Juneau! This is Molly Peek, Lead Logistician for this field season, checking in from the JIRP headquarters at the Eagle Valley Center (EVC) in Juneau. It is the 4th day of Staff Week and the JIRP staff are hard at work at the EVC setting up for the summer, doing Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) training, planning helicopter trips, and getting ready to welcome our students in 12 short days!

The 2018 Field Season is shaping up to be a wonderful one, already saturated in Alaska magic: despite an original forecast of 10 days of pouring rain, we have already had four days of sunshine (with only a little bit of that Southeast Alaska fog and rain)! After long days of first aid training, the staff have enjoyed beautiful walks through the woods to see whales and eagles at the beach. Dixie, the dog of our Program Manager Annie, has also benefited, getting plenty of sticks thrown for her and a few cold swims in the ocean.

 Staffers Allie Strel, Alex Burkhart, Kate Bollen, and Nigel Krumdieck enjoy some goofiness at Eagle Beach after a post-dinner sunset walk.

Staffers Allie Strel, Alex Burkhart, Kate Bollen, and Nigel Krumdieck enjoy some goofiness at Eagle Beach after a post-dinner sunset walk.

As the field staff learn about wilderness first aid and prepare to hike up to Camp 17 for glacier safety training, Annie and I are busy setting up the Juneau office for the summer. Coordinating student gear rentals, organizing faculty research schedules, and planning summer helicopter flights are high on our to-do lists this week. We are also enjoying overhearing WAFA instructor Steve educate the field staff and share some of his best stories of backcountry medicine.

While life during Staff Week can be quite different from routines in the heat of the field season, we are still enjoying some of the best parts of the JIRP lifestyle. Staff dinners have been delicious, with homemade ice cream from frozen dessert enthusiasts Allie Strel and Alex Burkhart (future JIRPers: we can’t promise this kind of deluxe food on the icefield, but I can assure you that the passion for food will be the same).

 Meal planning is a hugely important part of keeping things running at JIRP. Field Staffers Kate Bollen, Annika Ord, and Andrew Hollyday plan meals for staff week. I go to Costco to fulfill the lists with large bulk grocery runs. While Spam is an Icefield staple, this week’s meal planners have decided to save it up for meals on the glacier, enjoying plenty of uncanned food while we are still close to Costco. (NOTE: don’t worry! Kate and Andrew's “head injuries” are just left over from WAFA training! No staffers were harmed in the making of these grocery lists.)

Meal planning is a hugely important part of keeping things running at JIRP. Field Staffers Kate Bollen, Annika Ord, and Andrew Hollyday plan meals for staff week. I go to Costco to fulfill the lists with large bulk grocery runs. While Spam is an Icefield staple, this week’s meal planners have decided to save it up for meals on the glacier, enjoying plenty of uncanned food while we are still close to Costco. (NOTE: don’t worry! Kate and Andrew's “head injuries” are just left over from WAFA training! No staffers were harmed in the making of these grocery lists.)

We are looking forward to the arrival of students and faculty next week to officially kick off the 2018 field season! Keep checking the blog, as well as Facebook and Instagram (@JuneauIcefieldResearchProgram) for updates throughout the summer!


2018 Staff Week by the Numbers

Staff: 16

Instagram Posts: 2

Planned Helicopter Flights: 15

Days left in the Field Season: 71

On-glacier projects: 6

Icefield Camps: 11

Costco Runs: 2

Cans of Spam eaten: 0

Whales Spotted: 4

[Time] It doesn't matter, you're at Camp 8 . . .

By Amy Towell, University of Toledo

Camp 8… A place for rest, relaxation, the occasional radio relay and experimentations in waffles…
Camp 8 has one sole purpose: to relay radio calls between the Juneau Base and Camp 18. While the entire expedition is based out of Camp 18, groups of four take turns being stationed at Camp 8 for two nights. It isn’t a terribly long ski (usually four hours) between Camp 18 and Camp 8, but it took us a bit longer due to route conditions on the ridge approaching Camp 8. The snow bridges covering the giant bergschrunds [crevasses that extend all the way through the glacier to the bedrock] and crevasses had collapsed, which made taking the original route dangerous. We scouted a new route with help from Gavin, who was manning the radio at Camp 8 and could see the hazards from above. The other three inhabitants of Camp 8 were also helping on the ice by scouting the new route from the opposite direction. We had to probe extensively, which slowed our pace considerably, since the new route put us between two very large crevasses.

 Our rope team, probing our way slowly and safely through the maze of crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our rope team, probing our way slowly and safely through the maze of crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

 A view from the top of Mount Moore looking down on C8 and the route through the bergschrunds and crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

A view from the top of Mount Moore looking down on C8 and the route through the bergschrunds and crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

After an hour of nerve racking zigzagging and navigating over crevasses, we made it to the safety of our new abode on the slopes of Mount Moore. My feet were happy to arrive and be able to rest for a few days, and the group, as a whole, were excited to eat nothing but waffles for the duration of our stay; Camp 8 has the only waffle maker of the entire icefield! Our mission: eat more waffles than the previous group, which ate 14 in total.

 Blisters galore. I have been anti-croc for many years, but caved on this expedition. They are actually great for letting blisters air out. Photo: Amy Towell.

Blisters galore. I have been anti-croc for many years, but caved on this expedition. They are actually great for letting blisters air out. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our first order of business upon arriving: make some waffles. We were told that food supplies were low, so we had brought oil, pancake mix, peanut butter, jelly, brownie mix, freshies (broccoli, cauliflower, apples, pears, cheese, hummus and carrots), and probably some other stuff. Needless to say, our packs were heavy! Our first batch was reminiscent of grilled cheese with fresh sliced tomatoes. They were delicious. All the fresh food was a nice change of pace from the canned goods that we typically eat at main camps.

 A photographic summary of life at Camp 8: radio, coffee, power stances and waffles atop the roof. From left to right: Danielle Beaty, Bryn Huxley-Reicher, and Avery Stewart. Photo: Amy Towell.

A photographic summary of life at Camp 8: radio, coffee, power stances and waffles atop the roof. From left to right: Danielle Beaty, Bryn Huxley-Reicher, and Avery Stewart. Photo: Amy Towell.

Unfortunately, the weather was quite cold and misty that first night, so we slept inside. On the plus side, we slept great knowing that we were not going to get the standard 0730 wake up call for 0800 breakfast; we were on our own schedule. Our first radio check of the day was at 0845, so we got an extra hour of sleep! I had big plans to nap a lot while at Camp 8, but that did not happen. After our morning waffles (pumpkin, chocolate chip with pears), Dani and Avery climbed Mount Moore while Bryn and I got busy cleaning up camp. There was a large pile of old insulation that had been subjected to the weather for who knows how long. With my handy surgical gloves, I carefully laid out all of the insulation so it could dry and later be disposed of. After the morning chores, Bryn and I got busy washing ALL of our laundry. Hauling our dirty clothes up to Camp 8 also added a considerable amount of weight to our packs, but it was worth it.  

 The author amidst the drying insulation and deteriorated burlap. Photo: Amy Towell.

The author amidst the drying insulation and deteriorated burlap. Photo: Amy Towell.

Lunch consisted of broccoli, cheese and cornmeal waffles topped with even more sautéed broccoli. They were fantastic! Just look at that melted, oozing cheese (see picture below). After lunch, I monitored the radio and let my feet rest, while Dani, Bryn and Avery scouted the route we had set the day before. Some of the crevasse crossings had opened up even more, so the route was adjusted slightly and flags were placed for easy navigation. While the gang was out, I received a radio call from Camp 18 informing us that the “fancy dinner” was moved to that night and that we would miss it. We were all pretty bummed since we would have originally made it back in time for the festivities: dressing up, dancing and hamburgers!
 

 Our first dinner: cheesy, broccoli waffles. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our first dinner: cheesy, broccoli waffles. Photo: Amy Towell.

We decided to have our own fancy dinner and celebrated by making our best waffles yet. We sautéed broccoli and cauliflower and then mixed that into the batter with cheese. To top the waffles, we made BBQ chicken and two over easy eggs. We had precariously brought two eggs with us with intentions of using them to make brownies. We hadn’t had a fried egg for nearly two months, so they were reallocated for dinner, which really fancied things up. Bryn decided to go all out and made some baked beans and pineapple to top his waffle, too. I literally spilled the beans all over the floor in this process. Cleaning them up actually gave the floor a nice “waxy” shine. We ate our waffles on the roof and completed our nightly radio check-in before hiking up Mt. Moore for the sunset. We felt fortunate to see the sunset because Camp 18 was stuck in the clouds, yet we were above them. We had tried to make brownie waffles for the sunset jaunt, but they didn’t really turn out too well. We spent awhile sitting atop Mt. Moore, taking in the scenery. It is arguably one of the best views from the icefield. With the clear skies, we could see our entire summer traverse, which was super cool and really put perspective on how far we skied this summer. We could see Split Thumb, the peak near Camp 17, where we started. We could see the Taku Towers, near Camp 10. We could see Camp 18 and also the valley where Atlin Lake is situated, where our journey would come to an end in a couple short weeks. We could also see Mt. Fairweather, which is quite far away and impressively large, sitting at roughly 15,000 feet.

 Our fancy dinner: A waffle with sauteed broccoli and cauliflower with melted cheese, BBQ chiken, pineapple and an over easy egg to top it off. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our fancy dinner: A waffle with sauteed broccoli and cauliflower with melted cheese, BBQ chiken, pineapple and an over easy egg to top it off. Photo: Amy Towell.

 Bryn standing atop Mt. Moore at sunset. Photo: Amy Towell

Bryn standing atop Mt. Moore at sunset. Photo: Amy Towell

That night, we slept atop the roof and were pleasantly surprised with a northern lights show. The aurora forecast was only a three of seven, so we did not expect to see any activity. Bryn and I had never seen them before, so we were in awe, to say the least. Avery, who is from Juneau, said that they were hands down the best three-of-seven aurora he had ever seen and probably the best he had ever seen in general.

The next morning, we climbed Mt. Moore a couple more times (five in total for the duration of our stay) and got busy tidying up camp for the next crew to arrive later that day. We also made our last batches of waffles. One batter consisted of cold brew coffee (in place of water) with chocolate chips and roasted coconut flakes. It was easily my favorite waffle. The other batter consisted of pumpkin, oats, chocolate chips, apple, pear, cinnamon, and brown sugar. It was also delicious. We had a lot of batter so these were also made for lunch before we departed. In the end, our group ate a total of 34 waffles during our stay! We left Camp 8 a bit later than we had hoped for, but our next mission was in sight: get back to Camp 18 for dinner at 1900. We cruised back in a swift two hours and made it with 15 minutes to spare. Mission success!

The Mass Balance Student Research Project

By Bryn Huxley-Reicher, Harvard University; Joe Silverwood, University of Manchester; Kara Vogler, Dalhousie University; Benjy Getraer, Princeton University; Teddy Reinhardt-Ertman, Carleton College; Gavin McNamara, Dalhousie University; and Max Bond, Dartmouth University.

Hello from the 2017 JIRP Mass Balance team! We are studying the health of the Juneau Icefield by measuring the changing masses of the glaciers over time. This research allows us to contribute to an understanding of how climate change is affecting glaciers, and how glacier melt will affect local ecosystems and the global environment. We do this by digging large pits in the snow and measuring this year’s accumulation. In practice, this means skiing a few miles after breakfast, spending several hours digging pits, and measuring the density of the snow at varying depths.

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Caption: JIRPers digging a snow pit on the Llewellyn Glacier. PC: Gavin McNamara.

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Caption: Avery Stewart and Max Bond in the bottom of a mass balance pit. PC: Susannah Cooley.

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Caption: Max Bond taking snow samples by coring the layers of snow in a pit. PC: Gavin McNamara .

The history of the Mass Balance Team is the history of JIRP: this data collection effort was an original research goal of the program when it was founded in the late 1940s. The record to which JIRP students add each summer is one of the longest continuous records of glacier mass change in the world. To continue this record, we dig pits in the same locations every year: five pits on the Lemon Creek Glacier (one of the smallest glaciers on the icefield), about 20 on Taku Glacier (the largest) and its tributary branches, and a handful on the Llewellyn Glacier. Digging all these pits means the mass balance crew – and any other interested JIRPers – are usually out of camp, exploring many beautiful corners of the Icefield.

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Caption: Snow sample holes in the wall of a pit. PC: Gavin McNamara.

This year, in addition to relating the current snowpack to the historical JIRP records, we are trying to compare different methods of observing mass change. First, we are comparing the snowpack measured in pits to the snowpack measured using a ground penetrating radar (GPR). Estimating accumulation based on pit data- single points in a massive expanse of ice- is inherently limiting. GPR shows the different layers of ice and snow beneath the surface in transects across the glacier- profile lines, with much more information than the single-point pits. To check whether our point-based inference of glacier-wide snowpack is valid, we are using GPR to see if the depth of this year’s snowpack across the glacier matches our measurements from the pits.

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Caption: JIRPers skiing towards Camp 25 on the Llewellyn Glacier to dig pits as part of a mini expedition. PC: Gavin McNamara.

Second, we are comparing the measured snowpack to the measurements of GRACE, a satellite that tracks changes in Earth’s gravity. The GRACE system is a pair of orbiting satellites that measures the gravitational force exerted on them by the Earth below. An increase in mass below the satellites results in stronger local gravitational force; researchers can use the GRACE measurements to calculate changes in mass. Unfortunately for us, GRACE measures areas of the Earth about the size of the entire Icefield. We are trying to determine whether the GRACE data match our pit measurements of mass balance for a single glacier. Our pits are small and spread out, so they might not fully describe accumulation across the entire glacier.

Our analysis of long term mass balance trends show Taku Glacier was gaining mass from 1946 until the early 1990s, where it stagnated, and has been losing mass ever since. The Lemon Creek Glacier has been losing mass steadily since the start of its mass balance record in 1953.

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Figure: Cumulative mass balance for the Taku Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier from JIRP records. Long term trends indicate that the Taku’s ~50 year trend of mass gain has stagnated and more recently reversed, and that the Lemon Creek Glacier has been losing mass for the last 60 years.

Additionally, in our comparison of the data from our pits and the GRACE satellites, we have seen that the Taku and Lemon Creek Glaciers both follow the same trends as the GRACE data, but that the satellites are picking up larger changes in mass that must be coming from the other glaciers in the icefield, where we do not dig pits.

Being a part of the mass balance team was a pleasure for all of us and we had a very successful field season.  We plan to present our findings at this year’s AGU (American Geophysical Union) conference in New Orleans and are very excited to see our fellow diggers once again!  Mass balance field work was a physical and scientific adventure: it took us far across the icefield and taught us about field science and research.

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Caption: JIRPers skiing home after a long day of pit digging. PC: Gavin McNamara.

Trip to the Northwest Branch of Taku Glacier

By Eric Keenan, U. Washington, and Christoph Suhr, Whitman College

One method that scientists use to evaluate the health of glaciers is by digging holes into the glacier surface. On the Juneau Icefield Research Program, students and scientists use this method - known as mass balance - to determine the total amount of water in the form of ice and snow that has accumulated at pre-determined points on the Juneau Icefield in the past year. These measures have been collected since 1948, forming the second longest lasting mass balance record in the world. Recently, fifteen students, faculty, and staff embarked on a three day expedition to the Northwest Branch of Taku Glacier to carry on a part of this long-term survey.

 Part of the mass balance group skiing to their pit located behind Emperor Peak. Photo credit: Julian Cross.

Part of the mass balance group skiing to their pit located behind Emperor Peak. Photo credit: Julian Cross.

To reach the pits on the NW Branch of Taku Glacier, our group skied approximately thirteen kilometers from Camp 10, and established an overnight basecamp complete with dug-out tent platforms, latrines, sheltered gear trenches, and a cook tent. The second day of the expedition consisted of digging the mass balance pits higher up the NW Branch of Taku Glacier, too far afield to access in a day trip from any permanent JIRP camp. On the third and final day of the expedition we awoke to sunny skies, packed up our camp, and enjoyed the beautiful weather for our ski back to Camp 10.

To conduct the mass balance research, on each day of the expedition the fifteen participants would split into three groups, and head from basecamp to different locations to dig their mass balance pits. To document the health of the glacier, the students and scientists dug tirelessly down to the previous summer’s surface, sometimes having to dig over four meters into the glacier! By reaching the previous summer’s surface, the students could sample the snow that fell in the past year, weigh it, and from those data calculate the total mass of ice and snow that was added to that part of Taku Glacier by snowfall. With this information, total mass of snow and ice added in the winter can be compared with the mass of ice lost to summer melt. This comparison can be thought of as ‘balancing the glaciers checkbook,’ and can be used to evaluate the glacier’s health.

 Basecamp for the NW Branch trip, consisting of four sleeping tents, and gear, cook, and dining tents. Photo credit: Julian Cross.

Basecamp for the NW Branch trip, consisting of four sleeping tents, and gear, cook, and dining tents. Photo credit: Julian Cross.

On the Dot: A Day on Cook Crew*†

By Molly Wieringa, Harvard University

*Here on the icefield, roughly sixty people need to be fed at least three times each day. To meet this demand, students pull duty as cooks from our first camp to the final days of the program. Each crew consists of three students who will band together and support one another through some of the longest, busiest days of the summer. I have here attempted to capture some of the insanity inherent to being a cook at a JIRP camp.
†all times are approximate

06:00- You’ve been awake for at least 15 minutes, and depending on where you sleep, you’ve picked your way across camp to the cook-shack. If you weren’t caffeine dependent before JIRP, you definitely are now, so you down your first coffee of the day and shuffle into the pantry, where you spend five minutes pretending that you have an actual choice about what breakfast will be.

07:00- The water for the oatmeal you will inevitably make is still not boiling. On the other hand, the coffee percolating on the stove has bubbled over twice.

08:00- Turns out that breakfast will be slightly late. There aren’t yet enough pancakes (or fried diced Spam; to each their own) to accompany the oatmeal. You rocket around the boundaries of the kitchen, pushing oatmeal toppings onto the serving counter, collecting the knives and bowls and crumpled towels lying haphazardly on every surface, flipping off the burners in response to a query about why the cook-shack smells like gas.

08:13- The most enthusiastic (or awake) member of the crew trumpets the vuvuzela, both indoors and out, and breakfast is served.

09:00- During the camp manager’s announcements, you call seconds, promptly distracting every student and instigating a stampede, through which navigation to any place other than the serving counter is impossible.

 Typical cook crew swagger on display during lunch prep, when energy is at an all-time high. Left to right: Eric, Gavin, and Bryn. Photo credit: Molly Wieringa

Typical cook crew swagger on display during lunch prep, when energy is at an all-time high. Left to right: Eric, Gavin, and Bryn. Photo credit: Molly Wieringa

09:30- Welcome to Round 1 of dishes. Wash, hot rinse, bleach rinse, dry, repeat. You’ll be here for at least an hour and a half.

11:00- Break? What break? Better get started with lunch. You wander back through the pantry before deciding that making anything from scratch isn’t worth the effort, especially because at least half of the camp’s population is usually out in the field during lunch. Out the door to the refrigerators (read: snow filled coolers) you go.

13:00- The horn blows again; you’ve managed to reconstitute some combination of leftover rice, oatmeal, or soup, perhaps accompanied by canned meat or fresh-ish veggies. Hopefully, no one complains.

14:00- Maybe there are seconds, maybe there aren’t. Either way, Round 2 of dishes begins. If you’re lucky or experienced, you’ve used fewer dishes than breakfast and finish by 15:30.

15:30- Barring any major disasters, you take a nap, if you know what’s good for you. Feeding sixty people is hard work.

17:00- You’ve just woken up from what was going to be a 30 minute nap, having kissed your aspirations of academic productivity for the day goodbye. You meet the rest of the crew back in the cook-shack, theoretically “on the dot.” Regardless, it’s now time to test your mettle- dinner is when you either pass the high bar set by previous crews or tumble into culinary insignificance. The pantry awaits and your adventure fully begins. Playtime is over.

17:15- You’ve doctored a real recipe from an actual cookbook, possible only through many potentially sketchy ingredient substitutions and a (not that you’ll ever admit it) totally bogus scaling ratio. The number of pots on the stove has been increasing alarmingly.

18:00- Panic sets in briefly when you realize you’ve forgotten the vegetarian option. Another pot hits the stovetop.

18:55- Dirty dishes cover every surface- they seem to have multiplied on their own. Surely you didn’t actually use that bowl, but then why is it covered in sauce?

18:56- You scramble to move the various scattered kitchen implements to a designated area away from the serving counter, slap an ever-so-slightly snarky menu on the whiteboard, and then rush the pots and pans containing dinner onto serving trivets.

19:00- The vuvuzela sounds and the hovering hordes descend.

19:02- Realizing that the vultures previously known as your campmates are consuming food at an unheard-of rate, you panic all over again, before imposing serving sizes on each dish in the loudest voice you can manage in such a frazzled condition.

19:55- The camp assistant (a fellow student charged with helping the cook crew and the camp manager) gets up and gives a personal reflection. You then call seconds, again resulting in an impassable cook-shack.

20:10- If you’ve overestimated the amount of food, you beg your comrades to take thirds on their way to evening lecture.

20:15- The cook-shack, so hectic just moments before, now seems quiet as the grave. You sigh, blink at the mess in front of you, and steel yourself for the third, final, and most gnarly round of dishes. In order to win the favor of the masses, you’ve prepped a dessert already, and slide it into the oven before breaking out the dish soap.

21:30- Said masses, fresh from lecture, breeze through the door, carefree and laughing, as you push the dessert trays to the counter with achy muscles and prune-y hands. In a gravelly, strained voice, you urge them away from the newly clean camp bowls in favor of personal mugs. You’ve had it up to here with doing dishes.

 Julian the Kitchen Troll: a representation of every cook at the end of the day. Photo credit: Molly Wieringa

Julian the Kitchen Troll: a representation of every cook at the end of the day. Photo credit: Molly Wieringa

22:00- During the post-dessert daze, you somehow managed to put everything away, dump the dirty dish water, and wipe down the kitchen surfaces. If you’re like this cook, you ignore the rationale of going to bed early and seek out Avery, Benjy, or Max, one of whom is probably playing guitar. Wiser cooks take this opportunity to pass out. It’s been a full 16 hour day, but one of the most gratifying in camp. As your head hits your sleeping bag, you pray for the souls of tomorrow’s cook crew, and bless the stars you don’t have to wake up early.**

**Disclaimer: despite having used a tone to the contrary, being on cook crew is usually enormous fun, and a wonderful opportunity to get to know your two fellow cooks. Ten out of ten, would recommend.*

 

Ecological Survey of Avalanche Canyon

By Susannah Cooley, Davidson College

The Ecology research group woke early on a windy and overcast morning to begin our 13-mile trip to Avalanche Canyon. Avalanche Canyon begins at the terminus of Echo Glacier, is the home of abandoned JIRP Camp 21, and was our intended study site for the next three days. Our trail party left Camp 10 in high spirits and with much excitement. Avalanche Canyon, known for its beauty and lush vegetation, had not been visited by JIRP in many years; much of the terrain and conditions of our destination were unknown. The maps available in Camp 10 are several years old. Given the likelihood that the terminus of Echo Glacier had receded a great deal since the maps were made, we knew very little about what the area would look like when we arrived – How far would the glacier have receded? Would we have to cross blue ice? Would we be able to reach our destination at all? We were unsure of the hazards that lay before us, so we took the necessary precautions: we brought our glacier safety gear and our crampons and, as we approached the terminus of Echo Glacier, roped up into teams and probed for crevasses as we traveled. To our great pleasure the route we chose was safe. Under the guidance of our supportive and knowledgeable staff Evan and Annika, we arrived at Avalanche Canyon with ease.

 Staffer Annika Ord pointing out a snow swamp during the trip to Avalanche Canyon. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

Staffer Annika Ord pointing out a snow swamp during the trip to Avalanche Canyon. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

The trail party was all in good spirits as we came around the final ridge of the trip and the amazing view of Avalanche Canyon came into sight.  We made camp on a rocky outcrop next to the margin of the Echo Glacier ablation zone. Our camp overlooked several icefalls, the terminus of the Gilkey Glacier, a wonderfully vegetated refugio called Paradise Valley and Avalanche Canyon itself. The dynamism, the movement and flow of the dramatic landscape was overwhelmingly beautiful. The power of the ice and rocks were humbling; it is an area devoid of apparent human influence, in which geologic forces served as a reminder of the comparable weakness of the human form.  As we sat in awe eating our lunch and looking out over this view, I pondered how amazing it is that we, through our actions, are in the process of destroying a landscape that seems so far above the elements of daily human life.

 Looking out at the view on the first day. Avalanche Canyon, in the middle ground, is vegetated. In the background the Bucher and Gilkey glaciers flow through the Gilkey Trench and out the left side of the frame. Photo credit: Kara Vogler.

Looking out at the view on the first day. Avalanche Canyon, in the middle ground, is vegetated. In the background the Bucher and Gilkey glaciers flow through the Gilkey Trench and out the left side of the frame. Photo credit: Kara Vogler.

The Ecology group spent a wonderful three days exploring Avalanche Canyon. We studied the diversity and abundance of plants and lichens, and compared them to the level of development of the soils in each survey plot. We found a strong gradient in vegetation from the highest elevation near our campsite, which was predominantly rocky with few plants, down through the canyon to about 400 ft. below. Here we found a greater diversity and abundance of vegetation including some much larger species such as mountain hemlock and alder trees.

 Collecting data at the study site at highest elevation with very little vegetation. Photo credit: Catharine White.

Collecting data at the study site at highest elevation with very little vegetation. Photo credit: Catharine White.

 High diversity of plants found at mid-elevation in a transition zone between the rocky top and highly vegetated valley. Some species in this photo include: Rose Root, White Mountain Heather, Yellow Mountain Heather, Mosses, Grasses, and Fireweed. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

High diversity of plants found at mid-elevation in a transition zone between the rocky top and highly vegetated valley. Some species in this photo include: Rose Root, White Mountain Heather, Yellow Mountain Heather, Mosses, Grasses, and Fireweed. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

 Alder Tree – found at lower elevation in a highly vegetated zone. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

Alder Tree – found at lower elevation in a highly vegetated zone. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

The ecology group was also lucky to have JIRP’s artist in residence, Hannah Perrine Mode, along with us. While surveying the area Hannah contributed drawings of some of the survey plots, a beautiful way to represent the diversity of the area and the unique plants we were able to see.  

Overall, the trip to Avalanche Canyon was a huge success. We were able to survey plants and soils, see a wonderful view, and return to Camp 10 safely. The opportunity to see such a unique area, full of vegetation in an area otherwise dominated by rock and ice, to study plants and soil profiles that I had never seen before, and to return to Camp 10 with information on the current conditions of the terrain surrounding the terminus of the Echo Glacier was a truly unique experience. I’m sure I can speak for all the other students, staff, and faculty who were lucky enough to make the trip over to Avalanche Canyon, that we would definitely return to that beautiful spot if ever given the opportunity.

 

Morning Routine at Camp 10

Izzy Boettcher, Dartmouth University

“Good morning, beautiful nerds.” Allen’s voice rings clear, and full of excitement. The clatter of eating utensils, the hum of sleepy conversation, and the overall organized chaos that is each morning on the Icefield quickly fades and is replaced with an attentive silence. We sluggishly turn in our seats towards the back wall. A room of mildly caffeinated eyes focus on Allen, the academic lead, and the “Plan of the Day” white board that (tentatively) organizes each day. I’ve come to learn that life on the Icefield is highly dependent upon factors that we can’t always foresee — weather, snowmobile functionality, a Pilot Bread famine, etc.  — and thus our “plans” are always subject to change.

“07:30 wake up — check,” Allen begins, ticking off the tasks we have already completed. “08:00 breakfast — check.” He continues down the list, asking for daily chore volunteers, summarizing the day’s fieldwork outings, and concluding with the routine, “20:15 lecture” and “23:00 lights out.” At this point, the morning lull diminishes — fast replaced by the characteristic buzz of curious students energized by the day’s possible adventures. Will we test the skills we learned during safety training and practice crevasse rescue?  Will we snowmobile across the Taku marking a new GPS profile? Or will we strap a shovel to our pack and dig a mass balance snow pit? Our minds race as we eagerly consider our options. We all ultimately know that we can’t really go wrong, no matter our final decision. Each option guarantees unparalleled scenery, good company, and new accomplishments, calamities, and understandings that will soon be relayed when we reconvene for dinner. On this day, I decide to tag along with mass balance, and quickly finish my breakfast as others continue to brainstorm.

 Cooks prepare for the morning breakfast rush. Four-person student cook crews are in the kitchen by 6:00 am to serve hot breakfast at 8:00 am for upwards of 60 people. Here, Camp Manager Annika Ord (left) and Artist in Residence Hannah Mode (at the stove) assist students Susannah Cooley and Benjy Getraer. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

Cooks prepare for the morning breakfast rush. Four-person student cook crews are in the kitchen by 6:00 am to serve hot breakfast at 8:00 am for upwards of 60 people. Here, Camp Manager Annika Ord (left) and Artist in Residence Hannah Mode (at the stove) assist students Susannah Cooley and Benjy Getraer. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

“Hey, hey.” Mike, our camp manager’s voice cuts through the building volume. We pause our planning efforts to refocus our attention. “You ready?” he asks us. We grin, and nod our heads — we all know what’s coming. This moment is perhaps the last truly predictable part of each day. For although each morning begins with the same routine, each day holds something different. “Okay,” Mike says, bringing his hands in front of him and hovering his palms a few inches apart. We mimic his motions and anticipate the countdown. “3, 2, 1” he starts. And on “break,” 54 pairs of hands clap in unison, queuing both the mad rush of hungry JIRPers hoping for a second helping of oatmeal and SPAM, and the start of another day at Camp 10.

 Hungry JIRPers waiting in line for food. With a full camp it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to wind through the breakfast line. The mark of a truly great cook crew is keeping the coffee flowing for the whole process. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

Hungry JIRPers waiting in line for food. With a full camp it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to wind through the breakfast line. The mark of a truly great cook crew is keeping the coffee flowing for the whole process. Photo credit: Jay Ach.