Cool off from the summer heat with our next six-part miniseries all about ice – from those who call it home to its use as a tool in science. Experts tell us how this state of matter can create shelters and ships, document changes in climate, bring communities together, and even support future astronaut missions on the Moon.
Shane Hanlon: 00:00 Hi Vicky.
Vicky Thompson: 00:00 Hi Shane.
Shane Hanlon: 00:02 So, did you enjoy your first official miniseries with Third Pod?
Vicky Thompson: 00:07 I really did. I learned a ton, a ton. Like, I didn’t know there was so much to do with extinctions.
Shane Hanlon: 00:14 I know. I intentionally didn’t want to spend a ton of time on dinosaurs.
Vicky Thompson: 00:21 Well, they’re… How could we… We had to talk about them.
Shane Hanlon: 00:26 Oh, no, I’m happy we did. It was a great episode. But yeah, the way… How it came about or the idea that I had… I wanted to figure out like what other types of extinctions were out there. So, some of them are of different eras or even volcanoes or something. But yeah, the ISS thing just that threw me through for a loop when I first heard about it.
Vicky Thompson: 00:47 Yeah. It’s crazy to think of the ISS dying.
Shane Hanlon: 00:47 I know.
Vicky Thompson: 00:47 Yeah.
Shane Hanlon: 00:47 I know.
Vicky Thompson: 00:53 Okay. I have one request this time.
Shane Hanlon: 00:55 Oh, oh, oh, okay. I didn’t know we were in request mode, but okay. Go for it.
Vicky Thompson: 00:58 I’m always in request mode. Okay. Can I introduce the series this time?
Shane Hanlon: 01:05 Oh, you most certainly can introduce our next series. Go for it.
Vicky Thompson: 01:08 Okay. All right. So back into our one word themes, we’re diving into ice. Or, I guess tackling ice. It’s a solid, you can’t really dive into it. Guess you’ll hurt yourself. Anyway, one episode discusses ice in the many forms it takes like glaciers, moon, ice, fossil records, and even building materials for warships. We also discuss the effects of icy environments on biology from cute little arctic birds to indigenous communities in Canada.
Shane Hanlon: 01:41 Well, that all sounds incredibly exciting and I’m stoked for y’all to hear it. So, let’s get into it.
Science is fascinating, but don’t just take my word for it. Join us as we hear stories from scientists for everyone. I’m Shane Hanlon.
Vicky Thompson: 02:03 And I’m Vicky Thompson.
Shane Hanlon: 02:04 This is Third Pod From The Sun.
Susan Langley: 02:14 My name’s Susan Langley. I’m the Maryland State Underwater Archeologist. I often call my lectures, “What did the Titanic, the Bible, and Superman have in common?” and it’s Operation Habakkuk. There was an ice patrol sent out after the… Or, it was formed and sent out after the sinking of the Titanic to get rid of all those pesky icebergs and they’ll never sink our ships again. It was discovered that icebergs resist incendiary bombs, torpedoes, and that suddenly clicked with… Well, maybe we can build our refueling depot out of ice and it can’t be sunk.
First Interview…: 02:53 Right. So, tell us about the first time you dove down to the wreck.
Susan Langley: 03:00 So, the visibility wasn’t too bad. There was some back scatter in the summer as plant life… As much as mountain lakes warm up, we did get some floaties, if you will, snow as photographers call it. We tried in the winter one time to see if it would improve the clarity. There’s nothing more bizarre than standing in the middle of nowhere on a mountain lake, sweeping at the lake to get the snow off the ice. Before you pull your toboggan, it felt very Canadian… Pulling our toboggan with our chainsaw along and cutting a large triangle. You never want a circle because it can pop back in and lock you under. So you put a triangle, you push it under and stake it. Then we put all our safety lines, safety divers went down. Of course, because the ice was two feet thick, it really didn’t improve… It might have been clearer, but it was darker. So it was kind of moot. We stuck to diving in the summer.
Heather Purdie: 03:50 So I’m Heather Purdie. I’m a lecturer, Associate Professor to the University of Canterbury in the School of Earth and Environment. So I’m a physical geographer but at a glaciologist. So, my research area is snow and ice and glaciers. So, a lot of people get quite a surprise when they actually get to a glacier because particularly on the lower parts of the glacier, the area that we call the ablation area, where it’s hard ice… That’s where a lot of the activity like a guiding activity occurs and where a lot of the places where a lot of the work I do there, it’s completely different. It’s nothing like snow at all. It’s actually really, really hard ice. Of course, we need to put crimps on people’s boots to spikes. So spike needles, spiky, things that help grip into the ice. If you trip up and land on a glacier, it’s very slipper but it’s also really hard. So, as [inaudible 00:04:56] used to say to people, it’s like falling over on concrete. It’s not like falling over in the snow.
Interviewer 2: 05:05 So I’m curious what the future of glacier tourism is or what you think might change or be different?
Heather Purdie: 05:13 As each glacier retreats, the kind of terrain it’s in will dictate to a certain amounts or will dictate kind of how that glacier can be interacted with from a tourism perspective. But we are seeing adaptation. Even just a couple of weeks ago, over on the west coast, we were shown a sort of new trip that the company that’s normally done the guiding on the hard ice and are still running heli hikes, but they’ve also got e-bikes now. They’re taking people up a road that you used to be able to drive up that now because of flooding and things, the road’s not maintained to a standard to have a vehicle anymore. But you can still ride a bike up it. So they’re actually running e-bike trips to then walk people to a glacier viewing point. So that’s great. That’s a form of adaptation that’s providing a low cost option for people to be able to still engage with the glacier.
Anant Pande: 06:06 I am Anant Pande. I’m a Marine Biologist by training and currently I’m working as the program head Marine Megafauna for the Wildlife Conservation Society, India.
Interviewer 3: 06:27 Are there any funny or memorable stories from the field that you remember that have stayed with you that you’ve laughed about with colleagues with your family? That have been really interesting things that stay with you know, as a picture in your mind?
Anant Pande: 06:45 So there is this bird called a skua. I told you earlier about it, and it’s basically a predator bird of small [inaudible 00:06:51]. So it’s like, it’s like a seagull. We were walking very close to the lake and we didn’t realize there was this skua nest over there and we just walked past them. I was walking and there was another colleague of mine. We two were walking and I was basically trying to locate skuas nest and he was coming with me. So he was basically very slow walker. So I’m walking and he’s like quite behind me. So it’s very far, but suddenly I see him running towards me. So he runs straight towards me and goes past me. There is a skua chasing him. So there’s a very funny scene which happened.
Brian Huber: 07:28 My name is Brian Huber. I’m a curator of foraminifera, which are microscopic fossils that make a shell.
Interviewer 4: 07:35 Do you think in terms of this scale of foram evolution, if a paleobiologist came along a thousand years from now and took a look at the forams, would the forams leave a record of this human caused warming?
Brian Huber: 07:58 Well, they’re recording the change in temperature and if you can measure the changes in decades in sediments that are studied a few centuries from now. Yeah, for sure. You’ll be able to see this change. I mean we’re looking at how ocean chemistry has changed since just before the industrial age and since that time. We’re also looking at ocean acidification and evidence for that since the industrial age and there’s areas where it’s pretty discernible changes that are occurring. So, within a couple centuries, judging by the rate at which temperatures are increasing now, this record of warming will certainly be recognizable in the foram record.
Kathy Mont: 08:59 I’m Kathy Mont. I’m a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
Nicholas Hasson: 09:06 My name’s Nicholas Hasson. I’m a geoscientist at the University of Alaska currently working on my PhD in studying the cryosphere in Earth’s polar region.
Interviewer 5: 09:19 Do you think there’s enough ice that we can both use it for human life on the moon and be able to study it?
Kathy Mont: 09:26 Yes, because in order to study it, we don’t have to take all of it and then sample all of it and analyze all of it. What we could do is working with humans that are exploring and digging and accessing these resources is as they access the resources, if you sample the composition as you’re doing so in enough detail, you can still use it because then you’re creating that record. That is, a record long term that can go for generations to be used for understanding. It’s the only chance you’re going to get that record.
Interviewer 5: 10:04 That’s super exciting and it makes me wonder whether astronauts someday will just be able to drill down to these reserves of liquid water and have a well. Is that how that would work?
Nicholas Hasson: 10:13 Yeah. Well, it would surely require new engineering and ingenuity and that’s what’s so cool about science and about particularly NASA. Is that, it’s kind of like dare to discover because when we discover new things, we always come up with new ways to develop those resources.
Joel Heath: 10:43 My name is Joel Heath. I’m the Executive Director of the Artic Eider Society. We’re a small Inuit led charity based in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut in the heart of Hudson Bay.
Inteviewer 6: 10:55 Could you explain what the SIKU platform is and how it helps achieve those aims?
Joel Heath: 11:01 So, our programs have been really kind of working to combine Inuit knowledge and science together. In some cases that’s helping train people on oceanographic equipment to address their priorities or other sorts of tools. But part of the platform is like a social network but it’s what might be considered another context, citizen science. But it’s a really important distinction for us that it’s not about Inuit or indigenous communities giving up their knowledge to academics. It’s about empowering them to manage their own programs and to have full ownership, access, and control over their own data to run their own programs. They can decide to share that with projects as they want to, and they can make decisions about what’s more public such as really important things like how there’s dangerous ice nearby. But they can also choose on a post by post basis, whether they want something like their secret berry picking spot to be hidden or masked, like you would mask a house on Airbnb and that sort of thing.
Then the data behind every one of those observations would be written down. In the right platform, it could be mobilized to help provide equity across the table. So when Inuit are sitting down across the table from government or industry or academics that they’re empowered and not just written off as being anecdotal or storytelling. So, that led to our first pilot study with the SIKU App. There was hundreds of posts made by Inuit hunters that were hunting seals over the next couple of years. Then Lucassie Arragutainaq, head the HTA founding board member presented the ArcticNet Conference, showing seasonal shifts in the diets of seals from fish shrimp based on the data that was collected.
Shane Hanlon: 12:51 Wow. So, ice is really cool.
Vicky Thompson: 12:56 Ba da bump. It is in fact, you just cold.
Shane Hanlon: 12:59 It just brings me joy.
Vicky Thompson: 13:00 Yeah. So many dad jokes.
Shane Hanlon: 13:07 And with that, that’s all from Third Pod from the Sun. Special thanks to Colin Warren for audio engineering, Jay Steiner for production assistance and our rotating cast of amazing producers Ty Burke, Anupama Chandrasekaran, Jamie Findlay, Molly Magid, Devin Reese, and Sarah Whitlock.
Vicky Thompson: 13:22 We’d love to hear your thoughts, please rate and review this podcast and you can always find new episodes on your favorite podcasting app or at thirdpodfromthesun.com.
Shane Hanlon: 13:31 Thanks all and we’ll see you next week.
I know, I know… You all are welcome and I hope that y’all are… That folks are excited for the series and we are, as well. With that, is all from Third Pod From The Sun. Special thanks to Colin Warren for audio engineering, Chase Steiner for production assistance, and our rotating cast of amazing producers from Ty Bark… I need to redo that. All right. Special thanks to Colin Warren for…
Vicky Thompson: 14:05 Were you going to say Ty Barton?
Shane Hanlon: 14:08 I think I was going to say Ty Bruke.
Vicky Thompson: 14:10 I don’t… Who is that?
Shane Hanlon: 14:12 There is no one.
Vicky Thompson: 14:13 Yeah. And Ty Barton, I don’t know who that is either but it came immediately into my head as soon as you started. Thank Ty
Shane Hanlon: 14:18 Ty Barton. Maybe he was a boy you dated back in high school or something.
Vicky Thompson: 14:22 Definitely would remember a Ty Barton.