While getting ready to go on assignment to a huge glacier in a remote corner of Norway this past August, Associate Editor Erico Guizzo [photo] got an urgent, last-minute request from the engineering team he was meeting there. The researchers had run short of critical components for the electronic probes they were building for their experiments at the glacier.
So Guizzo, who holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, quickly put in an order to Digi-Key Corp., the huge Minnesota-based electronics components retailer. Days later, when he boarded his flight to Europe, he had 30 op-amp chips and 10 analog switches carefully packed in his luggage.
"It made me feel like I was part of the mission," Guizzo says.
Guizzo's story, "Into Deep Ice," describes his week on the glacier, which is named the Briksdalsbreen. It tells of the engineers' clever improvisations and a few weird setbacks, including the loss of some wires to hungry goats.
The team, based at the University of Southampton, in England, showed how a wireless glacier-monitoring system could record environmental observations such as temperature, pressure, and electrical resistivity that simply couldn't be collected with conventional instrumentation. It's a huge step toward their ultimate goal of understanding how the glacier is responding to climate change.
If it were an ice cube, the Briksdalsbreen would measure one kilometer on a side. But the glacier, which had been growing until recently, now appears to be melting. What's going on? "That's what the Southampton team hopes to find out," Guizzo says.