Monday, June 6, 2016

Made it to Summit!!

After a 16 hour day of snowmobiling 400 km from core 7, we finally made it to Summit at about 1 am last night. It was incredibly surreal first seeing something on the horizon besides snow and clouds, a man-made building standing well above the snow as a beacon of hope for some warmth and relaxation. The whole day was spent alternating between using our thumbs and palms on the throttle, standing vs sitting on the machines, listening to books on tape or podcasts, and trying to stay awake as we stared at more snow and sastrugi than one could possibly imagine. Once we got to Summit, we happily clambered into the Big House and ate some delicious leftovers, guzzled a bunch of water (without having to melt that snow first), relaxed in the warm comfortable room, and finally clambered into bed, exhausted, at 3 am.

Before: April 28 (photo - Forrest McCarthy)

After: June 5 (photo - Forrest McCarthy)

After waking up this morning we relaxed in the Summit buildings, ate some fresh fruit and drank real, non-powdered, milk, and enjoyed not having to huddle on a tote box when eating as the wind howls against the tent. Most of the crew showered and put on clean clothes that we had shipped up to Summit from Kanger, nearly 5 weeks ago. The atmosphere inside was quite happy and engaged as we recounted tales to the awestruck staff and scientists at Summit, confused as to who these smelly-beardy-goofballs were that appeared in the middle of the night without a plane. For us, it was quite bizarre to be surrounded by other people (remember that it had just been us 5 for the past 5 weeks straight, with only one flock of  birds and a few overhead planes to break the solitude) who didn't laugh at our inside jokes or suddenly burst into song at the mention of Pitch Perfect. Not only were there other people, but the Big House has couches (so much softer than our snowmobile cushions), laundry machines, internet, electricity, and a small smattering of plants growing in the windowsill.

Tate dismantling the science sled in front of the Summit Big House

Erich happily moving into an Arctic Oven in Tent City, Summit

I volunteered (or was voted off the ice sheet - still not sure) to hop on a small Twin Otter plane to pick up the caches we had left behind at Cores 3, 5 and 7. So only 12 hours after arriving at Summit I was off again to dig out our ice cores and load the empty fuel barrels into the plane. I've never before had a plane filled with only the pilot, co-pilot, and myself, so I felt like a rock-star as we covered that same 400 km in 1.5 hours that had taken us 18 hours the day before. We carefully dug up the ice core boxes and loaded them into the plane - knowing that it was a race against time before they turned into a very expensive puddle on the floor. We miraculously took off with an extra few thousand pounds of gear and headed back to Kangerlussuaq, flying over spectacular melt ponds and crevasses that we had avoided on our snowmobile traverse. I was ecstatic that I saw a few crevasses at the exact locations that my algorithm predicted they would be!

Trying to figure out how all that gear (plus 5 ice core boxes) will fit into that tiny plane

The view from the back of the plane, where I was happily squished for the two hour flight back to Kanger
Upon arriving in Kanger we were met with a team of Polar Field Services staff, who quickly and carefully whisked the ice core boxes into a large freezer (filled with ice core boxes from other scientists around the Greenland Ice Sheet), moved our gear to the warehouse, and started to dry everything that had been covered in snow and ice for the past 5 weeks. I glanced at the 1000 unread emails, 1000 new GroupMe messages, 100 Facebook notifications, few dozen texts, and even a voicemail from my doctor from a month ago before deciding that it could all wait another few days. I then attempted to email Erich and Bob that everything went well when, suddenly, the smell of my own clothes and 5-week-unshowered-body overwhelmed me and I had to put the phone down to jump in the shower. Never before has the feeling of warm water and soap made my skin feel so amazing.
Looking at crevasses from the Twin Otter that we happily avoided during the traverse
My first site of land at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet
I'm off to bed here in Kanger even though the rest of the group is still up at Summit for the next three days. It was very bittersweet leaving the group this afternoon even though I'll see them again on Thursday when they fly down here with the rest of the gear. Tomorrow I'll briefly head back up to the ice sheet to pick up the rest of the cached ice cores and fuel drums when the Summit team organizes gear and packs it up to be shipped back to the states.

Sending warm, showered, well-fed greetings from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland


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