Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Getting into production mode

We’re all finally starting to get in our rhythms up here, which took a bit longer than expected but everyone’s happy to have most of our logistics figured out. We moved 60 km north to Core 2 last Tuesday after the storm cleared and successfully drilled a 30 meter ice core (Erich’s personal record!), collected both east and west radar spurs, measured albedo at various locations near camp, flew a kite to get spectacular GoPro footage of the coring process (internet is too slow to upload videos, but we’ll post them once back to civilization) and aerial photographs to measure surface roughness. After a few different camp moves we’re getting quite speedy at packing up all the tents, science equipment, ice cores (making sure they’re packed so that they won’t break or melt during transport), and personal gear into sleds to tow behind the snow mobiles. The ratchet straps often freeze or get jammed with snow/ice, which makes tying everything down a more exciting challenge.
There's never a shortage of snow to dig on the ice sheet!

We’ve all been listening to music and books on tape while driving the snowmobiles. I just finished listening to The Martian, which was oddly fitting due to our shared experience. Both in the book and on the Greenland Ice Sheet one has to put on special boots, gloves, facemasks, and jackets to go outside, there is no water on the surface, the atmosphere is deathly cold, and any hope of rescue is far far away. Listening to the book made me appreciate having the others here with me and being able to leave after 5 weeks, not 5 years.
On Sunday we moved another 37 km north to Core 3 and began the practice of setting up camp all over again, we’re getting quite good at it now. Erich and I often race each other to put up personal tents and the latrine has turned into a multi-tiered palace: protected from the wind, with a view off into the distance, and even a shovel to hang your jacket on. It’s quite an enjoyable experience if you forget about the subzero temperatures. The coffee supply is slowly starting to dwindle, but fear not, we still have four coffee presses and over 20 lbs. of ground beans, so we should be able to stay caffeinated for the foreseeable future. Although we had cached fuel, propane, and empty ice core boxes here, we don’t reach our first food cache until Core 5, still a week or two away. Good thing I was deliriously tired when packing the cached food boxes and have no recollection of what I put in there (hopefully lots of chocolate and beer?).
Thomas, surrounded by coffee paraphernalia!  I count no fewer than 6 individual coffee-related items here- can you?

Low sun on the ice sheet from the tent.

Erich and I drilled a 28 m ice core during a very long day today, so we can pack up all that equipment and drive it forward to the next campsite. All day long the wind was howling and blowing snow on us, which the sunshine then began to melt, and everything was covered in a thin layer of ice when the water refroze in the shade. We built wind blocks out of tarps and coolers to protect the ice coring pit, but the spindrift ended up getting into every imperceptible small space (and down your shirt) no matter how many layers you wear. The wind is supposed to die down over the next few days so we’re hoping to get lots more data before the next storm rolls in. Since the storm last weekend temperatures have been extremely warm (mid 20’s during the day and above 0 F at night, which may not seem “warm” to you but remember that we’re standing on top of 8000 ft. of ice and above the Arctic Circle) so we don’t have to wear our giant parkas most of the time and can actually tie knots and tighten bolts with our bare hands, it really makes things easier.
All of the radar equipment is working flawlessly (though it still demands that we drive no faster than 6 mph to collect good data) but we haven’t gotten around to fixing the downward mounted laser yet, maybe we’ll look into that during the next storm.  For now we’re just trying to get as much done as possible and enjoy the great weather and fun company. That’s all for now,
The GreenTrACS Team
Fully loaded, traversing the flat white.

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