Wednesday, June 7, 2017

May 30th Update: Repairs, Wind, and Record Breaking Core

It's been an eventful week on the Greenland Ice Sheet, with two separate camp moves, six beautiful radar surveys, a 27 m ice core at Core 11, and a whopping GreenTrACS record-breaking 32.5 m ice core at Core 12. The temperatures have been treating us kindly (highs around 20 F and lows in the single digits), but the relentless wind has barely dropped below 20 mph this whole week. We had a near-critical incident while setting up camp at Core 12, when a gust of wind picked up the erected-but-not-yet-staked-down Arctic Oven tent and began rolling it away. Gabe dove inside the vestibule to tackle the tent and hold it down while the rest of the team sprinted to the rescue. Luckily, we didnít tear the tent or break any poles during this gymnastics exercise. Tate helped drill his first ice core at Core 11. He was thrilled to finally see the melt layers and density contrasts that heís inferred with his radar system. Nearly every run he would exclaim, "wow, I'm holding a piece of ice thats been buried for 30 years!!", or something equally goofy. It's always a fun reminder that although some days seem cold and tedious, the science weíre doing is unique and exciting. We've noticed that the snow accumulation is much lower at Core 12 than the previous few locations, and that we see many more melt layers. It will be interesting to examine these ice cores in the lab back at Dartmouth when we don't have to worry about frostbite in our fingers and toes. Inspired by the ice coring, Tate excavated a 255 cm-deep pit on the western spur, looking for the depth of the previous summer's snow surface. This mega-pit took Tate, Bob, and Forrest several hours to dig and required an intermediate ledge to shovel snow all the way to the surface. Forrest's snowmobile has still been acting up. We've talked to mechanics in Kangerlussuaq, Colorado, and Alaska, but all weíve learned is that the problem instantly disappears whenever we call for help on the satellite phone. The issues reappear only when we try to drive the snowmobile far away from camp. On both the moves to Camp 10 and to Camp 11, the snowmobile started to back fire and die only a few kilometers out of camp. Forrest was forced to abandon his load, and the group had to return later with an empty sled to drag the broken-down machine the rest of the way. But every time we test the machine in camp, the snowmobile starts right up and runs great. Just when we thought the problem was solved, Gabe was using the snow mobile to measure albedo near Core 11. The snowmobile died a kilometer from camp, requiring him to dredge his was back to camp through knee-deep powder screaming obscenities that, luckily, no one could hear. Letís hope we can fix this problem soon! We've spent the past few days fixing broken equipment while the winds keep us in camp. We took the GSSI radar controller and survival bag out of a sled to remove the built-up snow and ice. As we were chipping basketball-size hunks of ice from the sled, we accidentally snapped the cable off one of the solar panels. We fixed the problem by drilling a few holes, soldering, and zip-tying it back together. We also discovered that one of the pins on a cable connecting Tate's multi-offset GPR was bent, but this problem was not as easy to solve. We've spent multiple hours on the phone with HP and the radar antenna engineers, but have yet to determine how to fix the problem. One positive of the stormy, windy weather is that it provides us the chance to make fun but time consuming meals. Dinner can get repetitive out here on the ice sheet with limited time and supplies. So whenever we get the chance we try to mix up the routine of spaghetti, mac and cheese, and burritos with something more original. Tate has claim to the most creative and delicious meal so far. He took a muskox filet, wrapped it up in a basket of bacon, fried it, and served the creation up with mash potatoes and green beans. We've also enjoyed pizza, baked ziti, and Nutella-frosted cupcakes on days when we have time to use the camp oven. We are officially past the halfway point of our traverse, measuring by time, number of ice cores, or distance. Despite the strong winds forecasted for the next week, we're excited to get to the next few core locations and keep collecting great data. Hopefully this time none of our tents will try to fly away!


  1. I love the humor in your posts. Thanks for the smiles. :-)

  2. Miss you guys tons. You are killing it! Keep up the great work.

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