Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Update June 14th, 2017: One snow mobile down, and the farthest north we've ever been
If you've been watching our snowmobile breadcrumb trackers, you might have noticed that we're now traveling with only four snowmobiles instead of five. We left Forrest's machine, which had limped along ever since Core 9, back at the cache at Core 12. Bob put in a valiant effort trying to fix the snowmobile, talking on the satellite phone with various mechanics in Greenland, Colorado, and Alaska, but every time we moved camps, it would work for a few kilometers and then sputter to a stop. All seemed well as Bob, Karina, and Forrest set out from Core 12 towards Core 13. Bob was even driving Forrest's snow mobile to make sure that it behaved, but five kilometers into the drive, the machine backfired and slowed to a stop. Bob tinkered with the snowmobile for a few minutes and it seemed to run properly again, but after another five kilometers, the machine died suddenly. Bob finally gave up, dragged the snow mobile back to the cache at Core 12, and left it there with a large piece of bamboo so that we can find it when we return with an airplane. Karina and Forrest enjoyed a nice cup of coffee while waiting for Bob to return! Figuring out the best way to transport five people with only four snow machines has been a fun puzzle. The simplest solution is to have someone ride behind a driver on one of the snowmobiles, but that isn't particularly relaxing for the passenger. First, Karina tried riding in Forrest's sleep pod behind a two-stroke snow mobile, but this was very unpleasant because of the exhaust from the snowmobile. We next built a chariot-like-seat on the science Komatic sled that we dragged behind one of the four-stroke snowmobiles. This was very comfortable, but the rider had to endure wads of snow flying up from the snowmobile track would melt on the passenger, making for a cold and wet ride. The best solution appears to be riding in Bob's polypod, which is both ventilated and dry. Bob took the first ride in the polypod on a camp move. We told him he should relax, maybe take a nap, but he ended up working the whole time. He said the ride was very comfortable but the bumps made it difficult for him to code on his laptop. We've collected data like madmen since our last blog post. We drilled ~30 meter-long cores at core sites 13, 14, and 15, collected hundreds of kilometers of radar data, and dug numerous snow pits. We've been able to do so much because, except for some strong winds, the weather has been extremely cooperative. The nice weather means that we can move camp one day, drill a core and drive a radar spur the next, drive a second spur and fix broken equipment the following day, and the move again the day after that. Spending only three days at each camp is exhausting, we're really happy to have made it so far.