John Nye: the 'creep' of glaciers

John Nye describes the way in which ice deforms according to a 'creep law', as identified in the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, in the 1950s.

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And, erm, coming now to the glacier case, it was a natural idea, having thought about this problem a lot, of this block compressed, to think about strain hardening, which in the glacier case is the so called 'creep law' of ice. Well what it means is that if you take a piece of ice and you start squashing it, then at small stresses, it’s just elastic, bounces back. If you put the force on more strongly, the ice begins to, as they say, creep. That’s to say it deforms at a certain speed. It’s not quite as simple as that, but it – first of all, it deforms very fast indeed, and then settles down to what’s called the 'viscous creep' stage. And this viscous creep stage, we thought, Orowan and I, thought must be the one we want for glaciers. That must be what glaciers are doing, they’re creeping, they’re like metals but they’re creeping because they’re near their melting point.

  • Interviewee John Nye
  • Duration 00:01:21
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 8/3/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/22

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