Monday, May 9, 2016


It’s a weather day up here on the Greenland Ice Sheet – winds blowing 25-45 mph and snow attempting to completely bury our tents if we stop digging them out, which is no small task with a large kitchen tent, science tent, poop tent, and five personal sleep tents. We spent most of yesterday afternoon tiding up camp so that we wouldn’t lose science equipment or, god forbid, our 50 lb. box of candy and hot chocolate underneath the snow. Amidst the blinding blizzard we packed a few sleds with ice coring equipment, extra fuel, and food for our next camp so that it wouldn’t blow away (as we were communicating with each other via a combination of sign language and muffled grunting, no small task while wearing mittens, balaclavas, goggles, Carhartt overalls, heavy boots, gigantic jackets, and numerous base layers). Thomas cooked a delicious dinner with rice, lentils, beans, and reindeer meat (which really tastes like Christmas!) and we celebrated the end of our first successful week on the ice sheet. We secured our tents with large bamboo stakes and parachute cord before crawling into them for a blissful night listening to the howling wind and snow.
The team assembled, ready to fly to Raven.
This morning Erich made us pancakes (and Tate cooked up a few of his special Butterfinger pancakes) with real Vermont maple syrup and a side of bacon. We sipped a few cups of coffee and listened to the BBC on our antiquated high frequency radio. Even high up on the Greenland Ice Sheet, 1000 miles from the nearest shower, we can’t escape hearing Donald Trump’s voice on the radio. Yay. We’re all spending the rest of the day backing up and analyzing science data, calling our moms (happy Mother’s Day!) and significant others, and reading/relaxing in our tents. Not a bad way to wait out the blizzard. If we can find the box of baby wipes buried in one of our boxes under the snow I might even get to “shower”, I’m sure everyone else would thank me after a week in the same pair of socks and underwear. No one wants to change underwear when it’s -30 degrees at night, despite the smell.
Erich drilling with the SideWinder system.
We’ve had a successful few days of science since our last blog post. Erich, Thomas, and Gabe drilled a 30 meter ice core (in 30-50 cm intervals) to analyze snow accumulation over the past few decades, Tate and Forrest performed a few radar surveys around camp, and a few of us alternated surveying 30 km east and 60 km west of camp with various pieces of not-yet-broken science equipment. Gabe took a few snow samples and measured albedo at the ends of both spurs, Thomas flew a kite with a camera to measure surface roughness around camp and got beautiful aerial photos of us, Tate fixed the stubborn 500 MHz radar, and Erich got near infrared photos of the ice core as we were collecting it.  During our drive back to camp yesterday we were in a complete whiteout (maybe 100 ft. visibility, at best) barreling across a desolate white ice sheet at 30 mph with very expensive equipment in tow. It’s a bit daunting to rely completely on the GPS to guide us back to camp, since there was no hope of retracing our tracks once the wind picked up, and even more jolting to hit large sastrugi without being able to see them coming.
Setting up radar on the sleds.
Hopefully we can use this storm as an opportunity to organize our food boxes, fix the broken downward looking laser and various cables that have snapped in the cold, and finally finish reading Cadillac Desert – which has put me to sleep every night this week. The storm is supposed to persist all day tomorrow but hopefully by Thursday morning we’ll be moving towards Camp 2 and collecting more data.
Sending our best from the middle of Greenland,
The GreenTrACS Team

Aerial view of camp, acquired with Thomas' kite-cam.


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