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Glacial cavern monitoring

Projects of interest

Challenging research

Since 1986, a group of Czech speleologists concentrated around the Řehák Speleo company has already carried out 17 glaciospeleological polar expeditions to explore the interior of the subpolar glaciers and cryokarsts in southwestern Spitsbergen. The exploration includes, among other things, documentation and research of the drainage system of the Werenskiold, Nannbreen and Torellbreen glaciers through mapping of selected glacial caves and mapping the position of the glacier fronts within the framework of individual undertaken expeditions. The collected data provide a comprehensive view on the long-term changes of these unique ecosystems in the context of the last 35+ years..

The modelling of glacial drainage system corridors is carried out by thermoerosion of flowing water and the eventual re-flooding of the passages with water from melting snow and ice cover of the glacier and surrounding rocks. The enormous amount of water also brings fine sand and boulders created by the enormous pressures exerted by the glacier on the bedrock, which further grinds and scours the passages. The modelling is thus also due to the movement and plasticity of the glacier itself.

Due to the inaccessibility of the drainage systems, given by their geography and the fact that it is impossible to get into the glacier without special caving equipment, years of experience and great determination, as well as the extremely violent form of the modelling processes (huge amounts of water literally flow down the passages, sometimes with chunks of ice and rocks), there are actually only few long-term measurements in this environment - they usually last for days, or weeks at most.

Project Caveman

Since the beginning we had known that the probes had to withstand pressures of over 1.5 MPa, extreme mechanical stresses from flowing ice and rocks, water and boulders falling from over 50 metres of height, and repeated freezing; the wind chill temperatures here drop to -70 °C during blizzards..

We were so intrigued by this challenge that we started working on the probes immediately, and since the cost of such a project would be liquidating for an enthusiastic group of polar explorers, we decided to finance the development of the probes ourselves.

We designed the probes as separate units with mutual safeguarding; the probes share the measured data at regular intervals, so that even if any of them is lost, all the data which they have managed to measure in the whole group will be preserved.

We made a portable device for the probes to detect the range of their signal and configure the entire network at the installation site. A central unit capable of transmitting the measured data via satellite and special magnetic switches that allow easy activation of the units even in the middle of a waterfall of cold water. They can be put into sleep mode, for example, or vice versa, for reading data back in the lab.

Our probes have successfully completed 1 500 days of continuous measurements in this unforgiving environment; the data they have provided will lead to deeper understanding of glacial drainage channel modelling processes and its relationship with local weather and climate changes.

Presented on

Workshop on Changes of the Polar Ecosystem
20th annual meeting of the Polar Section of the CZ Geographical Society
Špindlerův Mlýn 7.11.2019

Populárně naučná přednáška v Hluboké nad Vltavou
Hluboká nad Vltavou 16.9.2020

Workshop on Changes of the Polar Ecosystem
21st annual meeting of the Polar Section of the CZ Geographical Society
Česká Skalice 14.10.2021

50-lecie Stacji Polarnej im. Stanisława Baranowskiego
Wroclaw 23.4.2022


Sunware s.r.o.

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