Friday, April 29, 2016

April 25-29: Preparations in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Early morning last Monday we woke up in Scotia, NY and drove to the 109th Air National Guard for our flight to Kangerlussuaq. We had all our gear and food loaded in air force pallets in the back of C-130 airplanes while we were crammed into the waiting room before the flight. After a few maintenance delays (it's not United Airlines but there are still delays) we were able to load onto the plane and squish in-between the cargo. Everyone managed to nap and relax during the 3 hour flight to Goose Bay, Canada, where we quickly refueled the plane and took off for the remaining 3 hour flight to Greenland. There are very few windows on the C-130 and the temperature seemed to fluctuate between wishing we were able to crawl into a sleeping bag and wishing we were wearing shorts.

Inside the plane all the pipes, wires, and metal was exposed so that the Air National Guard could inspect everything before and during the flight. It was a bit eerie to be able to see all the working parts of the plane, with loose pieces of insulation dangling off the ceiling and wires that appeared to date from the 1970's.

Tate and Erich alternate between sleeping and working inside the C-130

A C-130 sits on the runway in Kangerlussuaq below a large rocky hill slope

We landed in Kangerlussuaq and were greeted by our logistics friends at with Polar Field Services, who drove us to the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) building for some warm pizza and our beds to sleep in. We met many other scientists and logistics support personnel coming to and from Greenland to conduct research and keep the research operations humming. Lots of new friends!

We spent the next several days organizing and testing all our gear before loading it onto a different plane to send to the ice sheet. We set up our kitchen and science Arctic Oven tents as well as our personal sleep tents, tested the kitchen stove and emergency back-up Whisperlite stoves, had a lesson from the snowmobile mechanics on how to properly drive and fix the machines, and even got out to test our rifles in case a hungry polar bear tries to get too close. We spent several hours figuring out a mounting system for a downward mounted laser to measure surface roughness, and some of the CPS mechanics were able to build a snow density cutter for us on short notice since one of ours was accidentally left behind in Boise, Idaho.  Everyone with CPS here in Kanger has been working hard to help us have a successful and safe expedition. Thank you everyone!!

The group admiring our gear upon arriving at the warehouse in Kangerlussuaq

Thomas setting up his personal Trango tent to make sure we have all the parts.
Communal kitchen tent is yellow in the background
Erich modeling our snowmobile helmets
Carpenter Erich cutting wood to fit under the tables in the kitchen tent.
Tate admiring his new snow density cutter made with scraps in Kangerlussuaq

Erich ponders the structural stability of our surface roughness laser attached to the Nansen sled

In total, we have 1000 lbs of food and roughly 3000 lbs of science and support gear. We'll be towing four 55 gallon drums of gasoline (another 1750 lbs) with us from the start and each cache site and will be collecting ice cores along the way that we'll have to keep transporting to the next cache location. 

We have five snowmobiles and we figure each machine can tow ~1500 lbs, so our we're bringing about as much gear as possible for these machines. We started to load everything into plastic Siglin sleds and tried to divided the sleds so that they were loaded with approximately equal weights and sized boxes. Most of the sleds come with built in covers to keep drifting snow out of the gear, but we'll have to be careful to keep everything covered when storms start dumping snow on us.

Next, we unloaded all the sleds and reloaded everything onto large air force pallets for the Air National Guard to fly us up to our first camp, called Raven or Dye-2, nearly 200 km (125 miles) onto the ice sheet from Kangerlussuaq. When we get to Raven we'll have to unload the pallets and figure out how we want to distribute all the gear for traversing across the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Thomas loading the final box of gear onto a snowmobile.
Food boxes are in yellow and the large communal tents are green.

Some of us even had enough time to visit the edge of the ice sheet with Rebecca Finger and Melissa DeSiervo (Dartmouth ecologists monitoring Arctic flora and fauna) and spend a night at their camp. Point 660 is the end of the longest road in Greenland and provided some spectacular views of the ice sheet, plus we got to see four arctic hares and several herds of caribou on our drive out there.

A view of the ice sheet from the end of the road - Point 660.
Wow that's a lot of ice!

Camping near the edge of the ice sheet with the Dartmouth Ecologists

1 comment:

  1. On my flight back from Slovakia to Boise we flew over Greenland and the cloud cover allowed a great view of the ice sheet below. An endless view of ice and snow. Take care.