Red Paint – Prof. Liz Morris

As I walked down to the Gorner Glacier with a small group of David’s friends to scatter his ashes I was casting surreptitious glances at the exposed roches moutonees at the end of the path. A guilty conscience was troubling me. Now it seems unbelievable that any decent fieldworker would vandalise the environment she was studying; in 1976, believe it or not, I thought it would be fine to “touch up” interesting features with red paint so they could be recorded in photographs. So was the red rash still there on the roches moutonnees after 40 years? I didn’t spot anything, but in past years many people must have wondered what on earth had been going on.

I had just moved to the Institute of Hydrology after a 2 year post-doc at UEA looking at sub-glacial erosion.  Leslie Morland and I had written a paper on stress fractures in roche moutonnees and I wanted to continue to investigate sub-glacial features. DNC gave me the chance, with an invitation to join him in Switzerland, and I was soon happily recording chatter marks, crescentic gouges and fractures with a high tech (i.e. waterproof) yellow field notebook and  a very fetching matching yellow oilskin outfit.

I still have the data, but sadly my efforts didn’t seem to lead to any great insights about erosion, so the next time I joined Dave and the AGP team, in 1979, I had switched my attention to energy budget modelling over snow. Not far from the George Elliston Hut was an enticing patch of snow. I set up my AWS on possibly the most eccentric site ever chosen for boundary layer meteorology. However, the view was fabulous and I had the advantage of being near any extra sardines or Vesta curry that might be on offer – an important consideration in those days. I had been stunned to learn, on a visit to Peyto Glacier with Dave the previous year, that Canadian glaciologists lived on steak in the field, but the AGP was having none of it. Fresh bread got carried in on special occasions but I’m not sure Dave approved of such effete living.

None of us then could have imagined that the AGP would be still going strong now. I hope the current generation of young scientists gets as much out of their experiences on the Gorner Glacier as I did long ago – and it is as happy a time for them as it was for me.

Professor Liz Morris graduated from the University of Bristol in 1967 and remained at the Bristol Physics Department to study for a PhD. Her research interests include (i) basal processes of alpine glaciers (ii) development of physics-based models for hydrological and hydrochemical processes especially those involving snow and ice and (iii) the mass balance and dynamics of polar ice sheets. She has worked in the European Alps, Canadian Rockies, Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica.

Liz was appointed OBE in the Millennium Honours List for services to Polar Science and was awarded the Polar Medal in 2003. In 2012 she gave the Nye Lecture at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In 2015 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Bristol and Honorary Membership of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences. In 2016 she was awarded the Richardson Medal of the International Glaciological Society. 

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