The Nathaniel B. Palmer arrived at Thwaites Glacier around 2 a.m. ET on Feb. 26, practically a month after departing Chile. On a primary day at Thwaites, the Palmer traced a roughly 100-mile path across the fringe of the glacier and above it into the Amundsen Sea.
Through the trek, researchers mapped parts of the ocean flooring in the entrance of the glacier that has been beforehand uncharted. These maps will assist scientists in perceiving what occurred as Thwaites receded previously, and the way it may behave going ahead, permitting fashions to raised predict how a lot the Florida-sized piece of ice may contribute to sea degree rise in coming many years. “It seems to be mystical,” stated Peter Sheehan, an oceanographer with the College of East Anglia within the UK. “It’s like standing in a cathedral; you’re feeling the hush of reverence.”
Layers of snow, compacted over time, are seen towards the highest of Thwaites glacier. In places the place ice is slower-transferring, these layers, just like the rings in timber, will help scientists date glaciers.
The Amundsen Sea was notably nonetheless through Palmer’s first day at Thwaites, permitting the ship to get nearer to the glacier than anticipated. Navigating utilizing uncharted waters, Chief Mate Rick Wiemken, mentioned he saved a couple of quarter mile from the glacier face to scale back any danger to the ship from calving icebergs. Because the Palmer navigated west alongside the face of Thwaites, the glacier entrance grew more and more damaged and chaotic — visible indicators of its instability.
Glacier fronts are usually comparatively uniform, with sheer vertical fronts like cliff faces. The wavy prime and mild seaward slope of Thwaites in lots of locations, and in icebergs not too long ago calved from Thwaites, are additional indicators of its volatility. Thwaites Glacier begins on land and flows into the Amundsen Sea, forming an unlimited shelf of ice floating over a cavity of water that is by no means been immediately studied earlier than.