11 July, 2001
I am staying at a place called Tarfala forkningsstation. This translates to Tarfala Research Station. It is operated by the University of Stockholm and is utilized primarily by glaciological researchers. However, other researchers who investigate alpine settings also make use of the facilities here.
The first structure was constructed at Tarfala in 1951. Additional structures were constructed in the 1960s, but a major development occurred during the 1970s when most of the remaining building were constructed. The field station includes a number of bunk houses, a dining hall, a lab that includes a number of computers, and a building that houses a sauna, shower, and clothes washing facilities. It makes for pleasant living when not on the glacier. A mountaineering station is located down the valley about 4 miles, and a hiking club operates a small lodge about 500 yards up the valley from Tarfala. Numerous hikers and mountaineers pass by and overnight at Tarfala.
Yesterday we began drilling. To drill into the glacier we use a hot water drill. This drilling equipment pumps water from a source on the glacier, such as a stream, and then directs it through an on demand hot water heater which is powered by diesel. The water comes out of the heater at 70 degrees celsius and then passes through high pressure hose to a long metal pipe that terminates with a very narrow opening. This pressurized stream of hot water melts its way through the glacier. As drilling begins through the glacier, melted glacial water as well as water from the drill fills the hole, and runs over the side of the opening.
Our first two holes were stopped by an obstruction at about 40 meters into the glacier. The third hole we drilled to about 27 meters, and then the drilling water occupying and flowing from the hole suddenly began to drop out of site into the borehole. We stopped drilling in this hole, and began another about 10 meters away. In this hole the water suddenly dropped when we reached a depth of 45 meters. In the fifth hole we drilled, the water disappeared at 50 meters. Why would the water disappear like this? Perhaps someone would like to email an answer back to me..........
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