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Mike Leahy's Diary

glacierDay 5: Rest Day

The Glacier
I have trouble with authorities, laugh at other's attempts to assert themselves, the subtle (and not so subtle) leadership manoeuvres and the formation of a petty pecking order. It happens everywhere, and you don't have to be too perceptive to notice. Last time I had to put up with it was school, which just about sums up how infantile this behaviour can be. Taking the mickey doesn't earn me any ‘Brownie points'. Forcing nearly twenty people together, adding jetlag, hard work and the behaviour required to make a TV production is bound to lead to tensions, but this trip has a pretty chilled-out feel to it. Even so, everyone needs breathing space so Mikey B, J and I decide to go for a hike. The previous afternoon I had been canoeing with Kathy and one of the directors - Sophie. It had been a cool trip. We saw loads of wildlife and had plenty of exercise. Today it was shank's pony. Small groups are so much nicer than big gangs, for example you can have real conversation rather than a competition to have your say.

Franz Josef Glacier took an hour or so to get to - well the viewpoint did anyway. Once there we discovered a series of plaques with interesting facts. I thought that they may come in useful, so memorised them.

The Glacier is composed of compacted snow, which accumulates in an area known as the Neve. It takes snow five years to move from the neve to the snout of the Glacier, which is quite a bit faster than most other glaciers. Even so this is still 100,000 times slower than a typical river. Depending on weather conditions etc. the glacier can extend or retreat up to one metre per day. In 1998 it was 11 – 12 km long but in 1970 had been considerably shorter and in 1750 had been much longer. Its size at certain times can be deduced from ‘trim lines' evident in the hillside vegetation. Large, and correspondingly old, trees only grow in places that the glacier has never reached. Likewise if trees lower down are twenty years old it is a fair bet that the glacier has not reached the land on which they were growing for the last twenty years, otherwise it would have ripped them out of the ground. It was a realistic assumption that the Glacier has been present fairly recently in areas where there was little or no vegetation. I reckon this might all be of interest later, because I can't believe that at least one of the challenges won't have something to do with the Glacier.

Tomorrow is the first filming day. God knows what challenges are coming up. I do worry a bit because it's important that the programmes are good. I'm also feeling progressively more ill. I've got toothache, a cold, and what was just niggling asthma is now quite debilitating. Even so, it's impossible not to be happy in such a wonderful place.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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