Glaciers like ice caps are huge databases for multidisciplinary studies, just to list a few: glaciology, physics, hydrology, microbiology, biochemistry.
In some cases they are also real windows on the past that allow us to collect valuable information on their evolution but above all on that of our planet and its climate, a mass of data that we can exploit to face the future.
In recent decades, these very important databases have been severely tested by what we all know by now as "Climate Change" and for this reason it is now more important than ever to intensify their study and extract as much information as possible... before it's too late!
The "Northern Side of the Alps 2021" is part of this perspective, an exploration and research program conceived and managed by the "Inside the Glaciers" project conceived by A. Romeo and F. Sauro in 2014, to which La Venta also joined giving their support and patronage.
The goal of this project is to initiate a multidisciplinary scientific research program both on the surface and within some of the main glaciers of the Swiss Alps, located in the canton of Valais. At the same time, a photographic and topographical documentation of the surface morphological state and of some cavities in contact with these same glaciers was created, a kind of 2021 Polaroid.
In the summer of 2021, scientists and explorers carried out a series of reconnaissance to identify the glaciers of greatest scientific / exploratory interest, on this occasion microbiological samplings were carried out, GPS positioning of cavities both on contact and glacial mills and an accurate photographic documentation. points of greatest interest such as the fronts of the glacier, the entry and exit portals of incoming and outgoing streams. 3D scans and photogrammetry of external surfaces and sub-glacial cavities were also performed.
In October, with the decrease in the melting process, mini expeditions were organized on these glaciers with the aim of exploring the inaccessible cavities in the summer, performing new 3D scans to reveal the morphological differences created in these 2 months and carrying out samples for the Universities of Milan and Paris not only on the surface but also inside just in contact between rock and ice as well as inside some mills by carrying out samples at different altitudes in the mass of ice.
The glaciers affected by the project were: Lang, Gorner, Aletsch, Moiry, Zinal, Corbassiere, Plaine Morte, Ferpècle and Allalin.
- mapping and scans by laser scanner and photogrammetry for the 3D reconstruction of internal environments in order to examine the evolution over time of the cavities in contact between ice and rock, both with classical techniques and with the aid of drones for photogrammetry thanks to collaboration with realities such as VIGEA - Virtual Geographic Agency and FLYABILITY SA.
- taking samples of ice and runoff water for an analysis of the content of nano-particles of both human and natural origin performed by Yann Suvry of the INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS | Terre - Planètes - Environnement - Risques naturels.
- the sampling of sediments inside the superficial cryoconites for microbiological studies was performed by Roberto Ambrosini of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policies [“La Statale” University of Milan] and Andrea Franzetti of the Department of Environmental and Earth Sciences [“Bicocca” University of Milan] while in the contact caves the sampling was performed by A. Romeo and P. Rubcich (La Venta) for both micro-biological and biochemical studies.
The window of good weather in October allowed for intense activity with various groups of speleologists of different nationalities who alternated on the various glaciers with light fields of 2/4 days. Unfortunately, almost summer temperatures were found which, in the hottest hours, caused the reactivation of real surface streams, thus limiting the exploration times of the mills.
For this reason, the exploration and sampling of the Plaine Morte mills took place at the end of December thanks to the help of the Swiss speleologists from "Ice Cave" and Didier Cassany who then sent the samples to Paris.
The Inside the Galciers project has decided to continue its research activities in the Alpine area in 2022 both on some of the glaciers already visited and on others also in Italian and French territory. The goal is to increase the interest of researchers and the public on this fascinating natural heritage and derive from it as much scientific and historical information about our Planet ... for this reason the project expects to add new interested parties with scientific and technological skills in more.
A. Romeo and L. Gandolfo