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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 24: Speed and Melt of Glacier

Derek's birthday
I didn't have a bad night's sleep. We weren't allowed to drink in case we fell off of the mountain and I ended up dreaming about a road across the mountain with a pub on it. Over breakfast we talk about a book that I had read some time ago called ‘Beyond the Skipper's Road' by Terri McNichol. It turns out that she was Chris' surrogate grandmother when he had lived on a farm in Otago. It's a small world. Even more remarkably, Chris' sister-in-law had gone to school with Martin in Leeds.

The ice lenses are a nightmare. Although a wicked idea, the water in Kathy's balloon lens hadn't frozen overnight. Bummer! My ‘lenses' have gas bubbles in them. Kathy uses a saltwater bath to quickly freeze the water in her balloon lens. The salt allows the water/snow/ice mixture surrounding the balloon in a dish to fall to very low temperatures - well below freezing. This time the pure water in the balloon freezes, but she too has bubbles. We don't really have time to perfect the lenses but none the less, when sunlight is focussed onto our hands it warms us. Not enough to set fire to anything though.

The helicopter arrives blowing hard ice crystals from the snowy outcrop painfully into my face. We go back down to our measuring station on the glacier and take our readings. Keas had attacked the equipment overnight but it was still useable. J and I use a scale drawing and work out that the pinnacle we are measuring has moved one metre. Kathy uses trigonometry to give a result of 1.3 metres. There are bound to be errors in each but they sound reasonable enough.

the crew at lunchWe then have lunch. Derek asks the date. Turns out it is his birthday. Cool! There is only a little more walking to do, which is good because my feet hurt badly from an injury that I sustained while running away from an aggressive bull in India. The others come up to join us in helicopters from the sawmill. The programme is finished by about 4 pm. Our estimate of the speed at which the glacier moves turns out to be spot on. We are ferried back to Franz Josef township by helicopter. I'm tired. We celebrate. I get drunk. Cool programme!

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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