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Posts Tagged ‘Vatnajokull National Park’

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Here is one of my „COVID recordings“ that I managed to record by Glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón near the lagoon outfall.
This place is close to the ring road around Iceland so it is usually overcrowded by tourists and other traffic all year round, almost 24/7. I have only been able to dream of recording this place without traffic and human interruption.
But thanks to COVID, on the 10th of June 2020 I managed to record there without too much interruption.
The soundscape is different in this place, but the recording here below is typical for summer soundscape. When I first went to this place some decades ago the glacier was much closer, I guess about 2km away, but today it is about 8km away and much thinner. The sounds from the glacier have almost disappeared. But on the lagoon are large icebergs that melt down rapidly near the lagoon’s outfall. They can emit interesting sounds when they break in pieces.
Arctic terns have nested beside the outfall in many years, but probably because of traffic they seem to have moved the biggest colony closer to the glacier.  In the eighties and nineties when I passed this place every year by bike, Great Skua dominated this area with nests in many places.. But today this big bird is hardly seen near the outfall compared to how it was thirty years ago. Arctic Skua is a common bird there as it has been before.
This recording was made a few hundred meters east from the lagoon outfall.
Not far from the microphone are stranded icebergs which are constantly melting with all kinds of sound.
Most common birds in this recording are Arctic tern, Northern Fulmar, Black Headed Gull, and Razorbill. Other species are audible too.
Common Eiders come quietly close to the microphone and Seals have a fight or mating not far away,
The main background noise is a rumble from heavy surf along the Atlantic ocean coastline  several hundreds meters behind the microphones. Traffic from the ring road no1 is also audible.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at mid level.
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  (mp3 256kbps / 65.5Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre6
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (NOS)
Pix: Canon EOS-R

Weather: Cloudy, calm, around 8°C
Location: 64.052841, -16.178658

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Shortly after I set up my gear in a safe spot near the lagoon beneath the Svínafellsjökull ice fall. I heard thunder behind the Hafrafell mountain
Two minutes later and suddenly all icebergs in the lagoon began to move around like corks in a boiling pot. Big waves paralyzed the shores of the lagoon, in some places for many meters.
„Shit“ was my first thought. „I was not in the right place“. I should have been on the other side of the lagoon and closer to the glacier, where I have spent hours and days in recent years trying to record incidents like this without success. I ran to the lagoon to see what was going on.
…Or maybe I was lucky to be where I was. I saw big waves go far up on the shore at the place where I have been recording the past years. I probably would have damage or destroyed the Phantom power adapters inside the hydrophones XLR´s.plugs   
Thanks to COVID I was now in a place which has been impossible to record because of the tourist explosion in recent years.
Two microphones were now placed under a high steep crawl on the lagoon´s west bank, 5 meters above the lagoon surface. Below the microphones, two hydrophones were put in the lagoon between big rocks to prevent them from getting crushed or touched by icebergs. It was a bad placement for a successful underwater recording. But I  remember quite well what happened in this lagoon few years ago. So I was sure I would lose them both and probably something more if I threw them deeper into the lagoon. 
Although the outcome is OK, even though the hydrophones did not pick up the whole soundscape underneath the lagoon’s surface. 
The glacier calving starts in this recording at 3:15 min far away and behind the Hafrafell mountain, so it doesn’t sound very loud. But it makes a big wave in the lagoon which makes a chain reaction of a few other glacier calving.
Just before the first incident you can hear the hydrophone pick up a sound of crushing ice. It would have been much louder if the hydrophones have been deeper in the lagoon. But recording glacier lagoons is not an easy task when the lagoon is full of ice which can flip without warning.  
This recording was made in the late afternoon so traffic noise from rode no:1 is audible in the background. But compared to recent years, it is nothing. Thanks to COVID.   
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 48Mb)

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Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6 
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (NOS) & Aquarian H2n XLR (Spaced AB)
Pix: Canon EOS R

Location: 64.007567, -16.880922
Weather: Cloudy, calm,  +11°C  
 

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Recording Icelandic glaciers aims to be my main passion for the coming years.
Unfortunately, I feel I’m starting too late because the sounds have changed significantly over the last 20-30 years. It is because they have lost a lot of mass, especially on the edges of the glaciers where they mainly produce sound.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to get to places where a glacier is crawling because there are no roads or tracks near the places that are considered suitable for recording today.
Not enough. Most of the glaciers are within national parks and protected areas today. Therefore, I need to apply for a permit to go to various places within the national park to record.
Once in place, it is not a given that it is possible to record exactly where it would be best to get an interesting sound. It must be taken into account that glaciers are not playgrounds and they can be dangerous. Glacier lagoons’ coastline are also dangerous when large pieces of ice fall from glaciers and large icebergs flip over and break down in pieces.
Weather conditions are also important. I am used to record continuously for many hours, even days, so calm and dry weather most of the time is always on the wish list.  
Last summer Jökulsárlón lagoon and Breiðamerkurjökul glacier were my main targets. It was slightly more difficult than I thought in the beginning, mainly because I did not have a clue what microphones worked best for this project so I brought with me microphones for all kinds of situations which is a hell a lot of stuff. In the end it was my parallel MKH8020/8040 rig which worked best for this glacier project last summer. Mainly because glaciers are not so quiet and therefore microphones with the lowest noise floor are not so important . 
It takes me almost two hours to sail on pedal Kayak with all luggage to the location near the glacier. I started immediately to record with two recorders after arriving. Then it takes me almost a day to find the best location for the microphones. It was not the best place to get the highest quality of sound recording. But they were sheltered from the wind and in safe distance from big waves or tsunami from the lagoon.
This following recording is a part of a 20 hour recording on this location. 
WARNING. This recording has a wide dynamic range. It includes several blasts (especially at 6:34) which are very loud that can damage speakers, headphones or your hearing if played too loud.
As usual for nature recordings it has not got any process in post. Just add gain about 20dB. Therefore is clipping inevitable in the „blast“ at 6:34.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

(mp3 256kbps / 56,3Mb)
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Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 in Parallel AB40. Mixed50/50%
Pix: Canon EOS R

Location: 64.109285, -16.243593
Weather: 4°C 2-4m/sek, cloudy

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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)
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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)
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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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Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Europe by volume (3,100 km³). Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers (icefall) flowing from the ice cap. Svíafellsjökull is one of them.
Glaciers are not a playground for everyone. They have its own weather system and the gravity force will destroy everything that get lost in the ice.
Two British students lost their lives 1953 in a storm which lasted for 10 days on the glacier. It was not until 2003 that some of their equipment was found, carried forward with the movement of the outlet glacier. No human remains were found.
Two German tourist have been missing since 1st of August 2007 when they were on a hiking trip on Svínafellsjökull. Nobody knows what really happened but it is most likely that they fell in a swallow somewhere on the glacier, but their equipment was found in a small valley, high in the nearby mountains.
All glaciers have been shrinking fast last decade. That can be easily seen at the end of Svínafellsjökull witch now has a big glacier lagoon that did not exist few years ago.
As glaciers the glacier lagoons can be also dangerous. Icebergs can suddenly fall off the icefall and make huge waves in the lagoon, also when icebergs turns around or brake down in a parts.
I got in touch of these forces when I was recording the lagoon under Svínafellsjökull, 23rd of May 2014. I hid the equipment from other tourist in a landslide nearby and about two meters above the lagoon surface. Two Aquarian hydrophones where placed in the lagoon and a pair of MKH20 was used to pick up the sounds above the lagoon. The idea was to record in two or three hours.
I was in another place with my second recorder to record a sound close by the glacier.
After one and half hour I suddenly hear a big „bang“ with a long powerful echo from nearby mountains. All the icebergs on the lagoon suddenly moved around as a beans in a boiling pot.
I ran to the recorder´s place on the other side of the lagoon. The bag with the recorder was floating between the Icebergs so it was no problem to locate it in the muddy water. I disconnect the battery and took it inside to dry it as fast as I could. But nevertheless, it had several malfunctions since this drowning.
I am not sure what really happened. The flood line does´t goes all the away to the recorder´s place. I think it is most likely that some icebergs pulled the recorder by the hydrophones into the lagoon.
Thanks to Sound Devices in US and the reseller in Iceland (Pfaff-Borgarljós and Bragi Kort) I got a new recorder for a very nice price. Most of the loss was then covered by the insurances.
Update: In late summer 2020, I took the recorder apart, piece by piece, and cleaned it. It is now in top condition.

Flóðbylgjan við Svínafellsjökul

Jöklar og umhverfi þeirra getur verið hættulegt þeim sem það ekki þekkjir. Jöklarnir eru síbreytilegir og hafa sitt eigið veðrakerfi. Því ber að umgangast þá með varúð. Skemmst er að minnast hvarf tveggja þjóðverja á Svínafellsjökli þann 1. ágúst 2007 .
Mér var það svo sem lika ljóst að jökullón geta verið hættuleg þann 23. maí 2014 þegar ég staðsetti upptökutæki við jökullónið neðan við Svínafellsjökul. Tveir Aquarian vatnahljóðnemar voru staðsettir ofan í lóninu og aðrir tveir MKH20 hljóðnemar ofan við lónið. Sjálfur fór ég með annað upptökutæki til að hljóðrita upp við jökulinn sjálfan.
En líklega er aldrei of varlega farið. Eftir u.þ.b. eina og hálfa klukkustund kvað við mikill hvellur frá jökulsporðinum sem bargmálaði í fjöllunum ofan við jökulinn. Stuttu síðar fór allt jökullónið á hreyfingu eins og iðandi suðupottur. Mér varð því ljóst að upptökutækið við lónið gæti verið í hættu. Hljóp ég því sem fætur toguðu að staðnum, en allt kom fyrir ekki. Tækið var komið út í lónið og flaut þar í tösku milli ísjaka. Eftir að hafa þrifið það og þurrkað kom í ljós að tækið hafði bilað varanlega eftir þessa sundferð.
Allt bendir til þess að ísjaki hafi dregið tækið í lónið á vatnahljóðnemunum því flóðlínan hafði ekki náð upp að staðnum þar sem tækið hafði staðið. En skaðinn var skeður sem leytist þó á endanum þokkalega farsællega þó tjónið hafi verið eitthvert. Með óútskýranlegum hætti vistaði upptökutækið upptökuna áður en það drukknaði. Það sem hér má heyra eru síðustu andartök tækisins.
Síðla sumars 2020 tók ég upptökutækið í sundur, stykki fyrir stykki og hreynsaði það. Það er nú í topp standi.

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Aquarian H2n-XLR & Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: Canon EOS-M (See more pictures)
Recording location: 64.007509, -16.883081
Weather: Calm, cloudy, around 9°C

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