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The story continued – or the end of the lake

And then the story suddenly continued. I had the privilege to work as expedition leader on a small passenger vessel during the past weeks. A privilege in so many ways: Boarding a ship again after 1.5 years of abstinence in times when travel is still uncertain, sailing around Svalbard in almost empty waters with barely any ship around, on a marvelous little expedition vessel with a fantastic team and then getting the unique opportunity to spend the entire day on the glacier to go back to the lake. And it surprised me once more. New crevasses and moulins on the way up and then of course the now empty lake itself. As it turns out, the lake started to drain just three days after we had left and was completely empty after 24 hours, with most of the water running out in a 12 hour period. The place itself an overwhelming war zone, straight out of a doomsday movie. It was shocking and scary at the same time. The violent forces involved and the brutal speed of the process itself. Hundreds of icebergs everywhere, new crevasses, holes, canyons, collapses. Massive icebergs sitting on the mountain slopes, pinacles towering 30 m into the sky. Parts of the glacier tongue entirely collapsed. Ice that probably lasted for thousands of years, just gone and smashed into pieces within hours. A place hard to grasp and even harder to put in pictures, yet even words. One could spend a week up there and would still not fully grasp the mind blowing scale of things. The cabin, that used to be accessible in wintertime via snowmobile, is now cut-off. A safe passage through the maze of crevasses, holes and canyons is invisible.

I feel very privileged to have gotten the opportunity to see the place after the catastrophic drainage event. It adds a completely new dimension to the place I’ve now spent so much time looking at. And it once more visualizes the violence and speed with which our icy world is disappearing. It was a true honor to be able to share this experience with guests and I’m extremely thankful that I got eager helpers to scan the mountain slopes for cameras with me. In the end we managed to recover 10 out of 17 timelapse cameras, found one pressure logger at the former lake bottom and even found our targets we used to reference our drone imagery. These used to be on the mountain slope, ended up under water and were now next to some massive icebergs. The Arctic is a crazy place and this is just the beginning. Where will it all end?