PIG Ice Shelf: First Contact

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PIG Ice Shelf: First Contact
04.18.08
 
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-voice of Bob Bindschadler -

Hi, I’m Bob Bindschadler, I’m a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Fight Center, I study ice, I’m a glaciologist, and I’ve been doing it here for almost 30 years, and having a great time doing it.

- music –

West Antarctica…the Pine Island Glacier drains into an ice shelf, and the satellite data tell us that’s the spot, that’s the spot where the ice is thinning very rapidly, it’s double its speed in less than ten years, right now it’s moving a foot an hour. This ice is racing into the ocean. Faster and faster. And we need to know why.

We have to go there.

Two months ago I was able to stand on the ice shelf. There was debate in our community…you can’t even land on the ice shelf – it’s too heavily crevassed. But again, with satellite imagery, we were able to identify a spot that we thought we could land…and we did!

W’ere in the sweet spot on the ice shelf, about the only place you can land. That was the good news, the bad news was the surface was so hard that the airplane pilots were not willing to land again and again and again with heavy cargo loads. So we couldn’t put our camp on the ice shelf.

Because we couldn’t land on the iceshelf, what were we going to do? We still had some instruments. We set these instruments up as close to the ice shelf as we could. An automatic weather station – fairly complex, it took us about 3 days to set it all up. But it’s there, it’s working, it’s going to operate, we hope, all the way through the dark, cold Antarctic winter – helping us to prepare for the next time we’re going to go to the ice shelf. We also set up two GPS receivers that tell us how fast the ice is going, and if there are any changes. That also phones its data back by satellite phone so we can receive these data, right now, as we prepare for the next field season.

We’ll go back. We’ll go back with helicopters next time…and do our field work.

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