Day 5 – Visiting the glacier

The time had finally come! We headed up to the glaciers covering Antisana together with our partners from the Universidad Estatal Amazónica on Day 5. What evidence of human impact would we find in this remote location?


We were treated to stunning scenery on our journey to the volcano located about 55 km to the east of Quito. It wasn’t long before all signs of civilisation disappeared entirely.

Once we were up high, Christian was able to carry on recording the animal kingdom. The biodiversity in this National Park is nothing short of breathtaking.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Carunculated caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus)
Chestnut-winged Cinclodes (Cinclodes albidiventris)

And Christian could also capture a fox with his 600mm telephoto lens.

On to the next glacier

Even from afar, you can see fissures running through the Antisana Glacier. We were surprised by the amount of water we found from ice which had melted. Miriam’s audio recordings leave no doubt that water is even trying to escape from underneath what appears to be a solid coverage of ice.

Once we had made it to the glacier, Ricarda led the way given that she has lots of experience in the icy conditions in the Antarctic. We used the ice core drill we had brought with us to take our first glacier samples. The whole team had to pull together to make this happen and our trusty companions even ended up helping us out. We couldn’t have done it without them! 

Teamwork! Together we manage to remove two ice cores.
The Antisana Glacier is criss-crossed by crevasses, meltwater that is looking for its way into the valley is visible everywhere.
We saw the extracted core directly on the glacier and transport the samples back with us so that we can examine them for microplastics in the laboratory.

Ricarda and Robert, our ice and microplastics experts who we would be relying on to examine the samples, pulled out an incredible metre-long ice core (the ice core drill was packed in Ricarda’s luggage). We sawed up the core into lots of smaller pieces to make it possible to analyse the depth of the various layers and age the ice. The deeper the ice is, the older. We took great care to pack up the samples to take away with us. Back at the lab, we can examine the melt water from the core samples to check for microplastics and other indications of human impact. If you are interested in reading more about our ice research, check out our blog (in German) on the FAZ website.

Listening to glaciers is another way of learning more about them since the way they sound varies hugely depending on their development and composition. And so we ‘eavesdropped’ on them as part of our project.  Miriam took the lead. 

But we didn’t just want to obtain information about the glaciers as standalone masses. We wanted to pick up on the acoustic ecology – in other words, the combination of all the sounds in a particular area that make up a soundscape. We can work on the basis that a glacier in an area far away from civilisation will sound different to another glacier that is impacted by human interference in one way or another. The group split up temporarily to make our ‘eavesdropping’ operation a success. Glaciers may be big and mighty, but they are not very loud and it doesn’t take a lot to drown them out. We were very excited to hear the recordings Miriam had taken of the glacier (and the drill). 


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