Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 14 Update: Summit to Core 8!

Greetings from the middle of the Greenland Ice Sheet! This is our first deep field post for the 2017 traverse.

On May 6th, 2017 the GreenTrACS team finally departed Summit Station, beginning the science of the second field season of the Greenland Traverse for Accumulation and Climate Studies.  Years of preparation, a week in Kangerlussuaq, and nearly a week at Summit, and we were finally on our way!
Five snowmobiles, 10 sleds, 2 pods, 4 radar systems, gear for 8 weeks of camping, cooking, crevasse rescue, and fixing everything that breaks.  The team was excited to finally have everything packed and get on the road (photo: Grey Davis).
GreenTrACS team before departing Summit Station, Greenland.  From right to left: Karina Graeter, Gabe Lewis, Tate Meehan, Forrest McCarthy, and Hans-Peter Marshall (photo:Grey Davis).
Over the next five days, we travelled 440 km to Core Site 8, the first ice core location this year. We designed our course to follow a few IceBridge lines, and we took radar measurements the whole way. Because we were moving camp every day, we only set up one 12x12 ft Arctic Oven to use as a cook/science/sleep/charging tent. Things were a bit crowded, to say the least. Packing up and moving everyday was extremely exhausting, and we didn't have any personal space/time while we were moving to Core 8.

Hauling heavy loads from Summit to Core 8
During the third day, a storm dumped 10-12 inches of light, fluffy snow on our camp. The wind that night shaped the snow into giant sastrugi, which made our snowmobiling extremely bumpy and unpleasant the next few days. Our snowmobiles and sleds sunk into the thick, soft snow. Everyone got stuck at least once, and we had to dig out the heavy sleds and tow each other out of the piles of powder. When we finally reached Core site 8 on May 10th, we were all extremely happy to set up a real camp and have a bit more space to spread out. Plus, we didn't all have to listen to each other snoring all night!

Beautiful sastrugi after the big storm - lots of fresh powder!!

At Core Site 8, we dug a 1m deep pit to collect snow samples and analyze the snow stratigraphy. HP led a snowpit lesson (he's a snowpit master), while Gabe collected albedo and optical grain size measurements. Afterwards, Karina and Gabe drilled a 30.2 m ice core and placed the core segments into 3 ice core boxes to be transported back to Dartmouth.

Typical field camp: Core 8 Drill Site.
Tate and HP collected radar data along a 30 km spur to the west. Tate's multi-offset radar system seems to be working great, despite the bumps and fresh snow, while HP's FMCW radar is much improved from last year.  They are also running the Dartmouth Engineering Department's GSSI radar system, which is completely solar powered and can run both the 900 and 400 MHz systems simultaneously.

The team at the Core 8 drill site - still looking spy after their long slog from Summit.

Upon arriving at Camp 8, we saw two kite skiers making their way towards our camp. Max and Ulrikke (who we had actually met in Kanger) had kited 11 days and nearly 400 km from Kanger and somehow managed to see our bright yellow kitchen tent among the endless white ice sheet. We offered them hot tea and were thrilled to see their kit skiing setup, hear stories of their sailing adventures all over Europe, and learn a bit about competitive kite skiing. After a few days of rough sastrugi and tiring kiting, they were very grateful to have a place to sit and rest. The wind was forecasted to completely die the next day, so they set up camp nearby and offered to help us cook dinner and dig a snowpit in exchange for much needed company. They even offered to give Gabe a kite skiing lesson (something he's always wanted to try), but were unable to fulfill that offer because a) he just had brain surgery 2 months ago and everyone said that it was a pretty stupid idea to try it this far from a hospital, b) there was no wind to fly the kite.

Karina with a beautiful homemade pizza from the camp oven.

Today HP, Tate, and Forrest are snowmobiling back to Core 7 (the last core site from the 2016 traverse) to collect the weather station and extra fuel we left last year. Miraculously, the weather station seems to have survived the winter and somehow collected hourly data since last June. None of the fuel leaked out of the barrels, so we'll definitely have enough gas to get to Cache 1 later this week.

HP, Tate and Forrest ready for their run to Core 7 to get last year's remaining fuel 
and a weather station that's been recording data for the past year.

We heard that 10-15 congressmen and the head of the National Science Foundation were visiting Kangerlussuaq and Summit Station this week, but we were surprised to hear that they wanted to fly over our camp to see what we were working on. They circled overhead a few times as we waved up to the plane, hoping to make a good impression with our tidy camp and covered snowmobiles.

NSF and Congressional Delegation overfly the Greentracs camp at Core 8.

We plan to move camp to Core site 9 on May 15th. The next day, we will be visited by a twin otter plane that will drop off Bob Hawley and pick up HP. Bob is taking over HP's role for the remainder of the traverse. We will be very sad to see HP go, but we are also a bit jealous of the warm showers and fresh veggies HP will soon enjoy in Kangerlussuaq.

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