Frontier work at Mediumfjellet
Top image: Walking on glaciers, including passing deep crevasses, was a new experience for Nancy Schmidt. Photo: Tine Larsen/UNIS.
Tine, Nancy and Pierre spent a month 450 meters up on a mountain top to collect new geological data. All in all, your average student summer camp? Not quite, as their work will result in geological maps to be redrawn!
12 October 2007
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen
Nancy Schmidt (30), Tine Larsen (26) and Pierre Mauries (24) spent August on top of Mediumfjellet, a mountain range located in Oscar II Land, Nordfjorden, northwest of Longyearbyen. At an altitude of 450 meters and surrounded by glaciers they gathered geological data for four weeks.
Fold and fracture studies
Nancy is a PhD student in structural geology at Royal Holloway University of London, doing a case study at Mediumfjellet for her thesis. Tine and Pierre are master students in structural geology at UNIS.
Nancy and Tine studied the folds and associated fracture systems of Mediumfjellet, a mountain range that represents the complex and structurally challenging frontal part of the Spitsbergen fold-thrust belt. More specifically, they looked at how fracture patterns change with variations in fold style in order to analyze their geometrical and kinematic evolution.
The ultimate goal is to develop a fracture reservoir model, which can be used to simulate fluid flow in fractured rocks. If oil companies looking for oil or gas start drilling in fractured reservoirs and suddenly hit fractures, they will have no means of predicting how the fluids flow within the bedrock. Therefore they need to rely on fractured reservoir models such as Tine and Nancy are going to develop.
– We use Mediumfjellet as an outcrop analogue to producing reservoirs. Therefore we look at surface fracture patterns and collect data to develop a model that we can apply to the sub-surface of existing fractured reservoirs, Nancy explains.
Pierre was working on a kinematic model of the mountain; measuring the orientation of folds and faults to see how the mountain had moved and how the mountain’s displacement field looked like. Mediumfjellet has an amazing and structurally complex fold structure, a result from Svalbard’s collision with Greenland some 65 million years ago.
– It is such an exciting area, with steep mountain sides, rolling rocks and debris and even snow avalanches after the season’s new snow started falling in August, says Tine.
However, there were other challenges, too.
– Washing, Pierre says and laughs.
– Being efficient enough, Nancy says. – We knew we had just a month to do all this work, and we knew we had to collect as much data as possible. We worked 24/7, and sometimes we did not come back to our base camp until 4 AM in the morning, Tine says.
With long distances to their own “outcrops”, as they were working at different places on the mountain, and all the money that has been invested in the project put pressure on the three to deliver the goods.
Real frontier work
Especially for Nancy the excursion was a challenge, as she had never before worked in the High Arctic or walked on glaciers.
– It was a very useful experience for me as I was forced to overcome personal hang-ups. At the end, no peak was too steep for us, she says, adding that the key element was trusting in oneself and trusting the rest of the group.
The group also included a fourth, very appreciated companion; Tikka (2 yrs old).
– A fantastic dog, it was so good for the team to have her around, Tine says.
The three students did frontier work at the mountain, as no one has worked so systematically and over such a long period at Mediumfjellet.
– We can’t wait to present new data that no one has collected before. And we found discrepancies in the existing maps, so they will have to be redrawn!