Carly Onnink skis with a mass balance team. Students dig through the annual snowpack layer with shovels, which they carry on their backs. (Photo by Andrew Opila)

Eye-opening ice

After spending two months on a research expedition in Alaska, UNC-Chapel Hill junior Carly Onnink shares her story of field-based discovery.

The evening light encircled us in a 360-degree sunset of pink and orange over a mountain horizon, a brilliant display against the stark-white ice field in August. We nursed mugs of hot Tang, crowded together on our sleeping pads in a dug-out bench in the snow. As the evening grew cooler, we started to shuffle toward our sleeping bags and tents.

But then someone asked, “Who’s up for a night ski?”

We all buckled up our ski boots and took off, kicking and gliding as the sunset darkened into the night sky. We trekked to a crest with a view of crevasses leading into an ice fall and watched the moon rise between two mountain peaks as lightning flashed among storm clouds too distant to hear — the perfect end to an exciting day collecting ice cores on Alaska’s Juneau Icefield.

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Originally published Apr. 25, 2019.


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