INTO THE ICE IN SEARCH OF UNEXPLORED TUNNELS
The behaviour of water inside a glacier is one of the great mysteries that glaciologists have not yet succeeded in solving, or at least not completely. Since the internal hydrology of glaciers is directly related to their dynamics, it is clear how important it is to find answers, all the more so in this historical period in which they are changing so rapidly.
What better way to learn about the waterways than to physically walk along them?
In November 2019 on the Inylchek Glacier, in Kyrgyzstan, a place where a natural phenomenon unfolds that, due to its exceptionality, has stimulated the imagination and curiosity of researchers and explorers for over 100 years, as it could provide useful information for clarifying the complex mechanism of glacial hydrology.
This giant is characterised by the presence of a peri-glacial lake named Merzbacher, which begins to form every year in the spring and empties abruptly in late summer.
Known since 1903, this emptying phenomenon has presumably occurred every year on an impressive scale, since the lake, which is almost 1.5 km wide by 4 km long and 70 to 150 m deep, has a volume of several million m3. In 2019, exactly on 19 August, and over a period of 5 days, the entire lake began to empty and its waters reached the front about 15 km away through mysterious tunnels, exiting through several portals with flow peaks of up to 1000 m3/s, and then continued downstream.
Entering an intra-glacial drainage network after such an event and following its path to the forehead could really provide answers to many questions.
Inylchek Glacier it’s located in the Tien Shan Range (Celestial Mountains) one of the most important and fascinating ridges in the area, this is one of the longest non-polar glaciers in the World: 60 km long and 3 km wide.
Lake Merzbacher was the object of our interest and the main destination of the international expedition in November 2019.