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Posts Tagged ‘Crawling glacier’

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Last month I published hydrophone recording „Crawling glacier“ from the lagoon beneath Svínafellsjökul icefall.
The original recording contains two other channels with the sound above the lagoon.
It is not as clear in this short mp3 file as it is with headphones in the field, but during the recording it seems to be possible to hear the flow of the icefall though the valley. Its is a slow event. It usually starts high above in the mountain with rumbling sound and then slowly moves in a shock wave as a silk smooth „white noise“ though the valley all the way to the toe of the icefall. Regularly the ice moves faster in some places when the pressure get high. Then it cracks, some parts brake off and other just crawl faster which is usually audible for everyone.
This behavior of the glaciers is not often audible during the day because of traffic, wind or the clear sun which can easily disturb the sound waves in the air. Then it is also too slow for impatient listeners. Nights are usually the best time to hear this sound of the „flowing mass“. Changeable nature or different types of glaciers will also play a big rule how it acts and sounds.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 44,3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Aquarian H2a-XLR & Sennheiser MKH20
Pix: Canon Eos M

Weather: Calm, cludy. 11°C
Location:64°00’12.7″N 16°52’39.6″W

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It is a special feeling to stay close to a glacier. It’s like standing near a wast monster that is constantly moving, but very slowly. Everywhere around this flexible ice the gravity of the ice is visible. Glaciers usually have strong smell of fresh oxygen that glaciers have captured in ice and compressed in to locked bubbles for hundreds and thousands of years. This smell from the past is like from another world, probably because today has much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than it has been for 800 thousand years at least. Glaciers also make sounds, sometimes quite loud, from falling drops of water to earthquakes, but most of these sounds are not audible to human ears. Glaciers make constant sound in water which needs hydrophones to capture, as can be heard on the following recording. I can not say I have been lucky in recording glacier sounds in years past. I’ve always been at the wrong place at the wrong time when glaciers produce “big sounds”, but after many hours, and several days on the same spot, I got something interesting which is worth listening to.
One of those days was 5th of June 2015 when I was at the glacier lagoon neneath of Skaftafellsjökull glacier’s icefall. This lagoon is not big, probably around 500m squared, but the depth is around 80 meters so the soundscape beneath the surface can be pretty exhilarating when the glacier is crawling at the bottom of the lagoon.
I put two hydrophones in the lagoon and two microphones on a nearby hill and recorded there for almost fourteen hours. The gain on the recorder was almost equal on all channels, or around 48dB, and during these 14 hour session the soundscape was different mostly because the glacier surface melts differently during the day then during the night with different water flows into the lagoon. All the time the glacier was grinding the bottom of the lagoon so under the lagoon’s surface the soundscape was much nosier than above.
Then just before midnight the glacier did a “big move” (starts 25:00) which lasted for several minutes, crawling with cracking and scratching sound. The soundscape down in the lagoon sounds really strange and surreal, but the listener must keep in mind that sound travels much faster in water than in the air. The soundscape above the lagoon was different. It was possible to ‘feel’ or ‘see’ through the audio the movement of the whole Svínafellsjökull glacier icefall through the valley. But that recording will be for another soundblog.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 63Mb)

Recorder Sound Devices 788
Mics: Aquarian H2a XLR
Pix: Canon EOS M

Location: 64°00’12.7″N 16°52’39.6″W
Weather. Calm, cloudy, 11°C

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Svínafellsjökull icefall lay in a valley between Svínafellsheiði and Hafrafell. It is an icefall from Öræfajökull which is the highest mountain/glacier in Iceland around 2109 meters high.
I spent several nights beneath Svínafellsjökull icefall in May, both 2015 and 2016, recording 8-10 hours overnight recording. I was always trying to capture iceberg breakdown into the glacier lagoon, because last time I record it in 2014 it was disturbed with huge tsunami.
But most of the breakdown was probably somewhere between 1300-1700 meters, high in the mountain.
Anyway, during the night when traffic goes down and the weather was calm, it was always interesting to listen to the glacier in the „silence“. It starts like a thunder with low frequency rumble, high in the mountains. Then a strange „white noise“ falls slowly down the the wally, all the way to the end of the icefall toe. I am still not sure if it was an echo from the mountain or some crawling sound from the glacier. But it was so slow that I am almost sure that it is was not an echo from surrounding mountains.
But this is not what you will hear in the following recording. After one of this overnight recording in 15th of May 2016 I decided to record near to a frozen pond close to the glacier’s toe. The time was around eight o´clock in the morning so the tourist traffic had not began to disturb the soundscape. The temperature was just below zero, but the morning sun was already melting the ice in the area. The soundscape was amazing. With closed eyes it sounds like a busy place with bunch of small elves. Small trickle, ticks and cracks makes the soundscape worth to listen and to record.
At 17th minute the glacier start to crawl and then again one minute later with low frequency rumble.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level.

(256 kbps / 56Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (parallel ORFT)
Pix : Canon EOS-M
Location: 64.001270, -16.877298
Weather: Clear sky, calm, 1°C

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