Saturday, March 7, 2015

Borup Fiord Pass: video from the 2011 expedition to this unique Arctic environment

Science on the ice at Borup Fiord Pass in summer, 2014 (Photo: John Spear)

Borup Fiord Pass is a truly unique and intriguing field site. The deposition of elemental sulfur and microbial processes at the surface of a glacier at Borup Fiord Pass may provide clues we need in our search for life on icy worlds like Jupiter's moon Europa, and strange circular structures in the valley near the glacier may be the remnants of past springs which could inform our future exploration of Mars. I got to travel to Borup Fiord Pass in the summer of 2014 and it was an incredible experience.

My current graduate research is focused on characterizing the materials that form at the surface of this Arctic glacier. Much of that material is rich with sulfur in various chemical forms. I'm now using various instruments to perform my characterizations of the sulfur-rich materials from the site. For instance, I get to use a particle accelerator to conduct x-ray spectroscopy to look at the sulfur!

In 2011, Bob Pappalardo, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Steve Grasby, of the Geological Survey of Canada, made the trek north to visit Borup Fiord Pass. They took some samples that we've now been using to better understand the geochemical and biological processes that have occurred at the glacier. They also recorded a lot of video. Some of that video was recently edited into B-roll by JPL. The video shows Bob and Steve collecting sulfur on the ice beside a sulfide-rich spring. Take a look and see what you think about the sulfur that forms on the ice at this strange Arctic site:

For more information about this strange glacial environment in the Arctic, check out an earlier post on this blog titled "Borup Fiord Pass: An introduction to how an Arctic glacier may aid in our search for life on Jupiter's moon Europa". You can also find articles about Borup Fiord Pass science that have been posted by sites like and Popular Science.

We'll soon be putting together videos that show our work during the more recent field expedition in 2014. Stay tuned to this blog for those videos and for more of the science and awesomeness of Borup Fiord Pass!

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