Arctic Dispatch: Exploring an Aufeis

Arctic Dispatch: Exploring an Aufeis

Alisa Opar
Published: 06/29/2009


Lisa Jarvis atop the aufeis
After yet another scrumptious dinner (seriously, the food here is delicious—we had Thanksgiving dinner last night, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries from scratch and pumpkin cheesecake, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options) we drove to an aufeis, which is a vast ice formation. We hiked for about half a mile, passing through willows and past a singing robin until we came to the giant frozen mass with its layers of bright white and aqua blue. These sheet-like masses form when groundwater freezes at the surface; as more groundwater hits the surface and freezes, more layers are added and the formation grows. The aufeis (which means “ice on top” in German) that we visited is already melting and will likely disappear entirely in July, though others persist year-round. We climbed on top, traced the tunnels that run through it now that it’s melting, and even ducked beneath it (yes, probably not the safest action, given that it’s melting, but definitely worth the risk). Naturally, a snowball fight ensued. Here are a couple of short videos of our adventure:

The aufeis from its surface:

Beneath the aufeis:

Mosquitoes swarming at the aufeis:

Dave Gallagher's unique defense against the mosquitoes:

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