International Camp of Speleology-Glaciology 2014 - Gorner Glacier (CH)
The Base Camp was located not far away from the pathway to the Monte Rosa Hutte Retreat, on the central moraine of the glacier, 2500 mt over the sea level.
To the event participated a total amount of 46 people from different countries: 32 italians, 4 british, 7 french, a lithuanian, a Latvian and a swiss.
The entrants brought with them a tent and all the necessary stuff to sleep, as well as the personal equipment for the progression in cave; instead the organization supplied two tents for the Base Camp to host a cookhouse-kitchen and a materials store.
For the explorations the organization supplied about 700 meters of rope and more than 60 ice-screws and carabiners.
A glacier's patrol made in August by A. Romeo* allowed to draw a first map of the existing cavities in order to facilitate the first groups on the glacier and optimize the schedule.
During the ten camping days different groups of speleologists and researchers alternated: on average they spent at least three days working on the glacier. The weather was not so troublesome aside from a snowfall in the middle of the week when there were only 6 people.
So this didn't stop the operations that mainly took place in the sunny weekends where there were at the same time 24 people that grouped in 4 explorative teams.
The exploration and the topography of the glacier mills were the main target of this event. From the 18th to the 27th of October 20 glacier cavities (three of them were contact cavities) were spotted and explored. Some of them have been topographed and photographed.
Niccolò Segreto, a glaciology student, georeferenced the entries of main mills using a GPS locator. Its goal will be comparing the position of the 2014 existing mills with the ones known and explored in the past (in particular to compare them with the positions of the mills located by Alessio Romeo across 1999 and 2000 during his degree thesis), in order to rebuild an evolution of the Gorner cryo karst in the last 15 years, in relation to the superficial change (morphology and altitude) of the ablation zone.
Using a camera installed on a remote-controlled drone 3D pictures of the glacier's surface were made, in particular near the entries of the most interesting mills. These documents are unprecedented on the Gorner glacier and it has been the first experiment to check the real functionality of a drone in this environment.
In the next months the collected material will be needed to create a glacier map with the indication of the main glacier mills and contact cavities; it will be attached a document which will indicate the geographic location, the topographic survey of the cave if it exists, the pictures, the 3D model of the entrance and various informations in order to use this document in the future for explorations, new studies and research projects.
To this camp took part also some researchers of the Museum of Natural History of Paris, which have been cooperating for years to the GRAAL project with the French Association Spélé’ice and they study micro-algae and extremophiles beings in the cryocones*** of the Greenland's cover.
On this occasion the two scientists have withdrawn for the first time cryocone's samples on the Gorner for a microscopic observation of the bottom sediment.
A part of the sampling has been done also by Doctor Roberta Brayner of the Diderot Institute of Paris for the mineralogical study and for the rate of nanoparticles in the same cryocone sediment.
Alessio Romeo made a further withdrawal of the cryocone sediment, which then has been sent to the biologist Stefan Leuko of the German Aerospace Center of Cologne.
Frank Vanzetti has made professional shootings during the first phases of the Camp that will be used to make a documentary for the RAI Aosta Region and from the organizing team of the International Camp. In addition to these pictures others have been taken by Francesco Lo Mastro of La Venta and Lionel Blain of Spélé’ice.
The Camp's results will be published as soon as possible and riorganized to become an useful document for further explorations and researches over this icy giant, which is for so many years a destination for cavers from all over Europe and multidisciplinary researchers.
The Camp, included in the "In The Glaciers" project, has been supported by the European Caving Association, the french Association Spélé’ice, the Caving Commission of the C.A.I., Montura, Scurion, Calzature Gaibana, Intermatica, DRYHEAT, Sovendi, the logistics of the La Venta Association, the Italian Caving Society and the CNSAS.
* Alessio Romeo: born in Florence, a degree in geology, a speleologist for over 20 years, he studies glacial speleology since 1997. He's a member of the La Venta Association and of Spélé’ice, he has taken part and organized more than 20 expeditions all over the world.
** Francesco Sauro: born in Padua, a degree in geology, a speleologist for over 15 years, he studies the karst in the quartz sandstone of the Venezuelan Tepui, and this allowed him to win the Rolex Award 2014 for the explorations.
***Cryocones: holes over the glaciers' surface whose dimensions are millimetric or decimetric, in which there are dust and mineral sediments, vegetable organisms and microscopic animals like green algae and tardigrades, an extremophile animal able to dehydrate and to resist to water freezing and then able to reborn as the ice becomes liquid again.