Gaetan Lee / CCA

NASA Launches Rubber Ducks to Research Glacier Interior

September 23, 2008 02:23 PM
by Isabel Cowles
NASA researchers have inserted a flock of rubber ducks and a specialized probing device into Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier to track water flow within the glacier.

Flock of rubber duckies afloat near the North Pole

NASA researchers have sent 90 rubber duckies and a specialized probing device into the Jakobshavn Glacier, hoping that the ducks will be found and reported. Tracing the path of the ducks would allow researchers to determine the movement of water through the Greenland glacier. Each duck has an attached note reading “science experiment” and “reward” in three languages. The ducks also include an email address.

The experiment may determine why glaciers speed up in the summer as they move towards the sea, said Alberto Behar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Scientists believe that the summer sun melts ice from the glacier top; the water then flows through holes in the glacier and lubricates the glacier’s underside, causing it to move.

The scientific probe has a GPS system, thermometer, pressure sensor and accelerometer (to study the speed of water flow), which will give scientists a clearer picture of water conditions and movement inside the glacier.

Thus far, no one has reported finding the ducks or the probe. “We haven’t heard back but it may take some time until somebody actually finds it and decides to send us an e-mail that they have found it,” Behar said. “These are places that are quite remote so there aren’t people walking around.”

Reference: The Jakobshavn Glacier

Related Topic: Melting Arctic ice


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