A recent story posted on EOS (Earth & Space Science News) shows us the lengths — or rather, the depths — some scientists go to in their research. The story, illustrated by spectacular photos and an audio slideshow, follows Penn State graduate student Kiya Riverman as she probes the twisting chambers far inside a massive Norwegian glacier. Picture a slot canyon in Utah’s redrock desert, but in shades of black and white and espresso brown. That’s what her glacier cave looks like.
Studying a glacier “from the inside out,” as Riverman puts it, enables her to see firsthand how the ice is changing as surface temperatures rise. She’s been doing research on glaciers and ice sheets for many years from atop the ice, and although she had enjoyed recreational spelunking for a long time, the hobby didn’t intersect with her research until 2010, when a colleague invited her to help him map a glacier cave in Svalbard, Norway. Since then she’s visited the cave many times to monitor its development, as meltwater from the surface spills through it, deepening the chambers, cutting new passages, and reshaping its walls.