Episode 1 Blow Your Mind


Episode 1

Dr Chris and Dr Xand learn all about ice. They follow a group of scientists and explorers to find out how icebergs are born and what happens to them before they melt.


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Transcript


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We are Dr Chris and Dr Xand van Tulleken.

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And we're tracking down the most awesome, incredible

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and epic things in the universe!

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Come with us and discover unbelievable things...

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that will blow your mind!

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Blow Your Mind will be bringing you loads of top experts

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and scientists to help you find out more about some amazing stuff.

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From the Arctic to elephants, spaceships to sharks,

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and this week it's all about ice.

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Yes, frozen water.

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-So, hold on to your brains...

-BOTH: Here's what's coming up!

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Today, we'll show you some massive icebergs, or mega-bergs,

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as they break off from glaciers and can be as big as cities.

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We'll find out how fast a glacier moves

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and we'll see a mega-berg being born.

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Xand, how much you know about icebergs?

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I mean, have you got any idea where they come from, for example?

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Right, I CAN do this...

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Erm, you know in our freezer at home,

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it gets clogged with ice sometimes.

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So I think it's that - and then the bits break off and

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float away in the ocean.

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Right, so you don't know anything about icebergs, then.

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To be honest, I don't know exactly how they're made

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but I do know that they're big, they float and they melt.

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You're right that they float. And you're right that they're big.

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-But have you any idea HOW big?

-No.

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Well, I've been on an iceberg in Greenland.

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This iceberg was really, really, REALLY big!

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4,000 million tonnes of ice!

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Where do icebergs come from?

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How are they actually formed?

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How does that that amount of ice actually come about?

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It doesn't just plop out of a fridge and grow.

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To try and find out,

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I joined a whole lot of scientists to discover the answer.

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And, Xand, I think YOU need to watch this...

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This amazing jumble of icy pinnacles and valleys,

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cracks and crevices,

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is Store Glacier in Greenland.

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And it's one of the last unexplored wildernesses in the world.

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It's where some of the most gigantic, awesome,

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spectacular things anywhere on the planet start their lives -

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icebergs.

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Some icebergs are massive

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and can weigh up to 20 billion tonnes

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and are as high as skyscrapers.

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'I joined a team of scientists, experts

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'and explorers from all over the world on an adventure to

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'Greenland to find out more about these frozen marvels.'

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Here are the intrepid team members you'll meet today.

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Doctor Helen Czerski,

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physicist and oceanographer.

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She wanted to uncover and understand what's happening

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deep within the Greenland ice sheet and the icebergs.

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Chris Packham,

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naturalist and wildlife expert,

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obsessed by the natural world since he was a young boy.

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He was keen to explore the animals

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and ecosystems around these icy wildernesses.

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Doug Allan,

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polar cameraman and diver.

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He'd be filming in some of the most dangerous

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and difficult environments to capture all of the amazing images

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on camera.

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Doctor Alun Hubbard, glaciologist.

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Alun is an expert in all things icy.

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And he'd be leading the research

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and experiments taking place on the glacier.

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The whole team were risking their lives in one of the most

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changeable and violent environments in the world.

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So, they needed a reliable and brave doctor to join them

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and keep them safe.

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I'm sure you can guess who they asked...

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Amazing doctor extraordinaire,

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I was essential for the team,

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as I was there to keep everyone well,

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which, in those severe conditions, was harder than it looks.

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Did you know that Greenland's glaciers

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pump out 20,000 icebergs a year?

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And 95% of all icebergs in the northern hemisphere

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come from Greenland, including the one that sank the Titanic.

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One of the mightiest of all Greenland's glaciers is Store.

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It's an incredible landscape of ice, with cliffs beyond your imagination.

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Everything is a creaking, crunching wonderland of ice.

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It's so massive, it's hard to take it all in, even when you're there.

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Store Glacier is about the same length as 4,000 football pitches.

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4,000 very slippery football pitches, that is!

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4,000 super-slippery football pitches? That is impressive!

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-Let's have a look...

-Gladly!

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Store Glacier is on the west coast of Greenland.

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And it's basically a 400km river of solid ice.

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Where it meets the sea,

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it has a cliff of ice that's an unbelievable 8km wide.

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That's more than four miles. The team based ourselves here,

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in a camp overlooking that ice cliff.

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All of this ice is moving. It's creeping downwards all the time.

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Partly, that happening because of gravity

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pulling the ice downwards towards the sea,

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down here to where icebergs calve off the front.

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But if that was the only thing that's going on,

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we wouldn't see as many icebergs down here as we do.

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So there is something else...

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Physicists like Helen study how the world works.

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And although they are really clever,

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there are still loads of things they haven't got the answers to yet,

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especially about glaciers and icebergs.

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This astonishing glacier releases a mind-boggling 15 billion tonnes,

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yes, 15 billion tonnes of ice into the sea every year.

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And the scientists wanted to find out how...

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On our very first day in camp, polar cameraman Doug Allan

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was already filming a small iceberg starting life.

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This process is called calving.

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Calving...calving...

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Isn't that what a cow does when it's giving birth?

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So, is a cow giving birth to an iceberg? No, no...

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Is an iceberg giving birth to a cow?

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Sometimes I worry about you, Xand, I really do.

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Calving is also the name of the process

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when bits is of a glacier break off to create a brand-new iceberg.

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So, just to be absolutely clear...

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-Are there any cows involved in this?

-No.

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So, how do we know that something as gigantic

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and as heavy as the Store Glacier can move in the first place?

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-It's too slow to see.

-I'm glad you asked. Take a look at this...

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These are time-lapse pictures of the glacier.

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We could work out that it was constantly moving.

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The first challenge for the team was to work out exactly how fast

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it moved.

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Alun Hubbard is a glaciologist - an expert in glaciers.

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He came up with a plan to measure the speed of the glacier.

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If he attached a GPS tracker to the front of the glacier,

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then he'd be able to record its speed

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and find out more about what happened

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when these calvings occurred.

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This was incredibly dangerous.

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To do this, Alun would have to find a part of the glacier that

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looked like it could crumble soon,

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but hopefully not whilst he was on top of it, attaching the tracker.

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Alun had decided that this was the moment to attempt this

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hair-raising experiment. So, they started getting the gear ready.

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He's calculated that if we put this device on during the time that

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we're here, it will break free.

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And we'll get all the measurements up to that point and...

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That's cutting edge. I mean, that science AT the edge!

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There wasn't enough room in the chopper for a camera team,

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so Chris Packham volunteered to take the camera and film this himself.

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The ice here is extremely unstable, breaking off all the time.

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Alun needed to be dropped on top of a precarious ice tower.

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Can you get on that?

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-He landed safely on top of the tower...

-Two, three minutes, OK?

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..but needed to work quickly to fix the GPS tracker.

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This tower could have broken off into the sea at any minute,

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taking Alun with it...

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Oh, my goodness me!

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Just look at where he is!

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Frankly, that is astonishing.

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Where Alun is perched on top of this part of the glacier,

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there has to be a 100-metre drop.

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He has a couple of minutes to get that drill and get the material in.

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And frankly, if there's any movement on the ice, there is no chance...

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Oh, my goodness! I can't even look! Is he back in the chopper yet?

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No, not yet. But don't worry, he'll probably be fine.

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Wait a minute, you were there! What do you mean "probably"?

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You know what happened, just tell me!

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Can we just get back to see if he survives this?

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I can't bear the tension!

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YOU can't bear the tension? Imagine what it was like for us at the time.

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All we could do was watch and hope it would be OK.

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It's just a pillar with an enormous crack down one side of it.

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If I was going to bet on the next pillar of ice...

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..the next to go, it would be that one!

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This was completely terrifying. The pillar Alun was on

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was likely to topple soon.

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But he didn't know if it would be today.

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Oh, that is astonishing!

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OK, he's ready to go!

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Thankfully, after only 4½ minutes, he'd done it.

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The GPS tracker that Alun planted was now able to tell the team

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the exact speed the front of the glacier moved.

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I cannot believe how dangerous that was!

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-The things people put themselves through for science!

-I know.

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That really was massively dangerous.

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But scarily, less than 24 hours later, this happened...

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At four o'clock in the morning,

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when sensible people were fast asleep and only unmanned cameras

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were watching, a gigantic piece of the glacier started to break away...

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Look at that!

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A massive section, including the very tower that Alun was

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standing on, has tumbled into the sea.

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It was now part of an iceberg and had taken Alun's GPS gizmo with it.

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That looked incredible! I'd love to see it again!

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I'd love to see it again as well, so let's have an instant replay.

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-Hey, replay guys!

-HE CLICKS FINGERS

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What a sight to behold! It was awesome.

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The cliff started to break up and fall into the sea.

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But then the mass of ice under the water rose up to the surface,

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causing that huge wave to form.

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Luckily, the GPS tracker recorded some interesting

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-and useful results BEFORE it was swept into the sea.

-Quite revealing.

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It's mean velocity is about 25 metres a day.

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That's just under 10km a year right at the ice front.

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And you can see it has varied from 10 metres a day, and just before it

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toppled in, you can see it's moving at over 50 metres a day.

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So, it's a lovely idea because we've been looking at this,

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and in my head I'd been imagining it was almost steady movement.

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But what you're saying is it speeds up and slows down as the days go on.

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So, the results showed that Store Glacier moved

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an average of around 25 metres a day.

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That's the same length as two buses, and made Store

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one of the fastest-moving glaciers in the world.

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It's absolutely mind-blowing that something so humongous

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and dense and hard can travel the same distance as the length

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-of two double-decker buses, pretty much every day!

-It's phenomenal.

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It's astonishing. It's almost magical when you see the film

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run at high speed. Let's watch it again.

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It's like watching some kind of army marching or someone spreading

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-icing on a cake.

-Yes, Xand,

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but I think even YOU would find it hard to get through THIS cake!

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Anyway, how do you think this glacier, or any glacier,

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keeps moving? Gravity is pulling it down towards the sea

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but there is something else helping it along. Any idea what?

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A very strong whale with a big rope attached to its tail.

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I'm not even going to answer that.

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OK, is it a crab the size of New York City?

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Xander, you're being pathetic. You're going to make ME

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-crabby in a minute.

-All right, no need to be nippy! Get it?

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Crab...pincer...nippy? Forget it. I would have loved to have been

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with you in real life, though, and actually seen that.

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Can we see some more of what you did?

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Well, you can, but you're going to have to wait.

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But make sure that YOU come back because there is tonnes,

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literally TONNES more ice to see!

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-So much, it will...

-BOTH: ..blow your mind!

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Dr Chris and Dr Xand van Tulleken track down the most awesome, incredible things in the universe! This time it's all about ice. They follow a group of top scientists and explorers to get to find out how icebergs are born and what happens to them before they melt and disappear. They arrive at Store Glacier in Greenland, a gigantic 400-million-kilometre river of ice that releases a mind-boggling 15 billion tonnes of ice into the sea each year as icebergs. Scientist Alun Hubbard risks his life to plant a GPS tracker on a huge tower of ice right at the front of the berg.


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