Monday, May 30, 2016

From Gabe at Core 6

All rigged and Snowmobiling For Science! Photo: Forrest McCarthy
I’m writing to you from the inside of my (somewhat odorous) tent at Core 6, nearly 400 km from our starting location at Raven/Dye 2. We’ve now drilled six of the seven proposed ice cores, collected a thousand miles of radar data, broken and fixed nearly everything that has an on/off switch and, unfortunately, eaten every single PopTart on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Although the weather has been a bit chilly this week with arctic air blowing from the north (morning temps around -14 F and daytime temps around 0 F), we’ve entered a new weather pattern and “warm” air is now blowing in from the south at 20-30 mph, so today we’re stuck in our tents reading, blogging, and Erich is watching “Pitch Perfect” for the fifth time this week. I wish I was joking.
Measuring Albedo with the spectrometer. Photo: Forrest McCarthy

During our camp move from Core 5 to Core 6 we set up a GoPro time-lapse as we deconstructed four personal tents, the kitchen and science tents, and the poop tent, packed up large sleds with all our gear, ratcheted down several 55 gallon fuel drums so that they won’t puncture, and padded our ice cores to move to the next cache. When we got to Core 6 we set it all up again, but we’re definitely getting faster as we can now erect everything in about 2 hours from arrival. We’ll eventually post this time lapse, but the connection says it would take 322 days to upload at the current connection speed.
Drilling at core 6. Photo: Forrest McCarthy
As Erich and I were drilling the ice core yesterday (we reached 28 meters before running out of non-broken aluminum extensions) we noticed that we’re directly under the commercial flight path from Europe to America, so if you find yourself crossing the Atlantic in the next week be sure to look down for several large yellow tents and a few gray tarps. We’re the only thing that isn’t snow a several hundred mile radius. Maybe we’ll even spell out the name of our favorite political candidate with snowmobile tracks!
Erich, geared up and ready to head out. Photo: Forrest McCarthy

We have four 2-stroke Polaris and one 4-stroke Skandic snowmobiles since we were told the 2-strokes are much easier to fix if something breaks out here. During our calculations and extensive research, we figured that the 2-strokes would get around 8 miles per gallon while hauling sleds and that they require an oil-to-gas ratio of 50:1. So we brought 17 gallons of snowmobile oil and cached 17 fuel drums along the route at a few strategic locations. What we failed to consider was that while surveying and towing heavy sleds, the snowmobiles use an oil-to-gas ratio of closer to 30:1, meaning that we have enough oil to get us to Core 7 and to within 100 miles of Summit, just shy of our final destination. We unsuccessfully searched the snowmobile manual for a way to premix the oil and gas before refueling, to lower the automatic oil injection rate, and even to use an oil substitute (we have lots of olive oil and bacon grease). We asked the snowmobile mechanics in Kangerlussuaq for help and even a few family members to do some research online for us, all to no avail. We have enough oil to get us 300 km, but it’s 400 km to Summit. What we really need is another miracle of Hanukkah. Unfortunately the National Science Foundation doesn’t believe in miracles and doesn’t want us to freeze to death so close to Summit (it would be bad publicity on their Annual Report), so they offered to air drop several gallons of oil at Core 7. Maybe they’ll even offer to bring pizza and beer when they come?
You get stiff after a long science drive... Photo: Forrest McCarthy

During the long spell of nice weather we’ve been working hard to collect as much data as possible and stay on track before the plane leaves from Summit on June 9 – with or without us. I managed to fix the laser during a storm day last week and it appears to still be working after driving it at pretty high speeds over large sastrugi. At the moment the GSSI, Flat Earth, FMCW, and multi-offset radars, various GPS receivers, laser, borehole thermometer, and albedo device are all working flawlessly, though I’m sure something will freeze or break in this windstorm. Two weeks ago Thomas and Tate cooked me a delicious birthday cake using pancake batter and cream of wheat with a scrumptious cheesecake frosting (the text reads “Love Green Tracs”). It was definitely the coldest birthday I’ve ever had but also one of the most exciting. 

Happy Birthday Gabe! Photo: Forrest McCarthy
We’ve had breakfast for dinner nights, made Hawaiian pizza with sugary pineapple chunks, pepperoni, and a pancake crust, we’ve perfected mixing Annie’s Mac & Cheese with Darn Good Chile, and even worked halfway through the 3 lb. bag of Sour Patch Kids. Everyone is quite looking forward to some non-dehydrated vegetables and being able to drink water without having to melt a bucket of snow first when we get back to Kangerlussuaq in just over a week. We definitely have enough food for the remaining journey to Summit, and now that we have all the oil we will need maybe I can convince Erich to let us finally snowmobile joust with some bamboo stakes or pieces of ice core. Until then we’ll keep completing our research objectives and driving north – towards Summit.

Tate, in full gear. Photo: Forrest McCarthy
Flying the Kite-Cam. Photo: Forrest McCarthy

Aerial view of camp from the Kite-Cam

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