Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Some Summit Work - Done

Erich here checking in from Summit. I have to admit that I got a little choked up when we finally arrived at Summit after midnight monday morning. Pushing the "stop" button on the snow machine that last time was a long time coming - all the months/years of planning, the 5 weeks of work here on the ice, and then the 16 hours of snowmobiling on Sunday to actually make it to Summit. What a ride.

Our approach to Summit was not easy - avoiding the clean air sector and the
ICESat line south and west of the station. The diagonal gray line is the Summit Station ice runway.
It turns out that the most difficult part of our whole 1200+ km traverse was the last 10 km approaching Summit. The "clean air" sector for atmospheric measurements at Summit is towards the south (since the winds come from the south most of the time) - unfortunately, we were coming from the south too.  Snowmobiles are not allowed in the clean air sector because they're not clean. So we had to detour well west of the Station, then continue 10 km north of the Station, and eventually approach from the northwest. It was tricky because there is an "ICESat Line" also west of Summit where they validate satellite measurements of Greenland's surface elevation - and we had to avoid that area too. Everything is marked with flags - the challenge came from differentiating the "come this way!" flags from the "stay away!" flags, which were often the same color. It took Summit Camp Manager Kaija talking us in on the satellite phone like an air traffic controller - her watching our headlights from the Big House - before we were able to find our way to the station without compromising someone else's science project. You can see our tortuous path to Summit on the "where we are" breadcrumb tracker page, and in the picture above.

T'Ocho triumphantly hoists his cot after successfully collapsing it - for
the first time since April 29th. 
Today we completed the last of our major tasks here at Summit before Thursday's flight to Kanger. First, we broke down all of our gear and science sleds to sort the gear into piles - stuff going back to Dartmouth, stuff going to Boise, stuff going to Kanger, and stuff staying here. We've become awfully (too) familiar with this gear over past 5 weeks.

Before: Our sleds all loaded after arriving at Summit. Tent city is in the background on the left.
After: T'Ocho dancing on an Air Force pallet after we finished sorting and re-packing the gear.
Thomas completed his last kite survey to get a high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of Summit Station. PI Bob Hawley was here last summer and conducted a similar survey with his drone. So Thomas will be able to compare his DEM to Bob's to see how much the glacier surface has changed around camp from drifting around the buildings.
Erich with the famed GISP2 Ice Core borehole.
I also completed our last science snowpit - number 22 of the expedition. It was a very cool experience for me. First, I got to visit the GISP2 ice core borehole, which is kind of like a baseball fan going to Fenway or Wrigley for the first time. GISP2 was one of the most important climate records ever collected - it fundamentally changed the way we understood the climate of the last ice age. My PhD advisor Dr. Paul Andrew Mayewski (UMaine) was the lead PI on that project in the early 90's, and so it was a special experience for this ice core scientist. Then, completing a snowpit here at summit - a place from where so many of my samples have come over the years (including an ice core named after my first born!) - was very satisfying. All in all, my first visit to Summit has been awesome.

The last of 22 snowpits - this time at the top of Greenland.
Tomorrow (wed) we will finish labeling our gear for the shipment home, and tomorrow night we'll give a short presentation to the Summit staff and other scientists about our project, and premier Forrest's video of our expedition. We'll be sure to post the video to the blog here once it's in polished form. Gabe hopes to be back in the air wednesday recovering the caches at the Core 3 and Core 5 sites after being grounded today due to weather. We're looking forward to reuniting with him Thursday night in Kanger.

One last note - posted on the bulletin board here at Summit are two photos of Bob from the FIRST Summit Station winter-over crew in 1997-1998. Bob is in the bottom left of both photos. Legend.
Our very own Bob Hawley (bottom left in both) - a legend here at Summit.


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