Formation and drainage of ice cave lake 2014

This series of time-lapse photographs collected between May 7 and June 30, 2014, revealed the rapid formation and drainage of an ice-dammed lake that forms along the western margin of White Glacier, approximately 1 km down-glacier of Anniversary profile (370 m a.s.l.).

Coincident with the lake drainage, it was observed that ice velocities at Anniversary profile, located 1 km up glacier, increased by approximately 250% above the previous flow rate. Three days later, glacier speeds peaked further up glacier at Moraine profile indicating the up-glacier propagation of ice acceleration (referred to as a kinematic wave) reached elevations of 870 m a.s.l.

Time-series showing the 2014 onset of lake formation and drainage, alongside the observed increase in velocities at Anniversary profile (orange) and Moraine profile (blue).

It was not expected that such a large lake formed near the ice cave, and therefore it was quite a surprise for us when we analyzed the photographs in the summer of 2015. As you can tell from the images, we nearly lost the camera in the lake! After this exciting realization, we have moved the camera to higher elevations and increased the photo-sampling rate to 1 hour, which will enable us to distinguish whether speed-up events are a consequence of lake drainage, or whether ice motion destabilized the sub-glacial nature near the ice cave, allowing the lake to drain.

Footage from the 1960 McGill Arctic Research Expedition


During the 1960 McGill Arctic Research Expedition, a Canadian film maker by the name of Budge Crawley and his assistant Stanley Breed filmed the field team’s journey to Expedition Fiord and the establishment of the research station. In the film below you will see footage from the McGill University campus in Montreal, the airstrips of Resolute Bay and Eureka (Nunavut), and flights and scientific activities in the Expedition Fiord region of Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut.

Dr. Peter Adams, shown in the opening scene, provided the film from his time on Axel Heiberg Island. Unfortunately there was no audio recording for the first 60% of the film copy, but Dr. Trudy Wohlleben edited the footage and included sound effects where audio was not available.

However, we are on the hunt for the complete version! If you have information that might help us find the audio for the first part of the film, please contact Dr. Laura Thomson:



New Map Published in the Journal of Maps

This month our new map of White Glacier was published in the Journal of Maps. You can view the map here.


We use Structure from Motion software to generate a new digital elevation model (DEM) of White Glacier, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, using >400 oblique aerial photographs collected in July 2014. Spatially and radiometrically high-resolution imagery, optimized camera settings, low angle lighting conditions, and photo post-processing methods together supported the detection of small but distinct features on the surface of the snowpack and enabled feature matching during the image correlation process. The resulting DEM and orthoimage facilitated the production of a new 1:10,000 topographic map with 5 m vertical accuracy in the style of earlier cartographic works of White Glacier dating back to 1960. The new map of White Glacier will support calculation of the glacier’s geodetic mass balance (mass change determined from ice volume change over the past 54 years) and provides an updated glacier hypsometry (area-elevation distribution) that will improve the accuracy of future mass balance calculations.

Axel Heiberg Island, NU