Midnight Sunset at "Camp 2" -- 12 May 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Return to Dye-2 and flying back to Kangerlussuaq

Mike on the way back to Dye-2
 The fantastic weather permitted to catch up with some of the tasks of the expedition. But it moved in late and certain locations could not be visited anymore: We were scheduled to be picked up at Dye-2 May 23 and had to drive back well in advance to get all our material ready for the flight out. The traverse from Camp-2 to Dye-2 was marvellous, everything worked out perfectly while we were driving south during whta seemed like an eternal sunset.

On the very last evening on the ice sheet: The abandoned US radar station Dye-2 at round midnight.
 On the evening of May 21 we were notified that our flight was one day earlier than announced... only 15 hours left to sort and pack all of our material. Nevertheless, we were ready on time in the afternoon of May 22 we boarded the Twin Otter that brought us back to Kangerlussuaq.

Finally back in Kangerlussuaq: Mike and Karen in the harbour.

Success! The work is half-finished.

I'm sitting at a tiny wooden desk as the midnight sun illuminates my window on the second floor of the KISS (Kangerlussuaq Int'l Science Support) station in southwest Greenland.  I have trouble sleeping without the noise of wind--my second day off the ice and I still find the silence disconcerting--so I occupy my waking hours wading through a month of backlogged e-mails.  A recent press release from my parent institution CIRES announces the results of a recent study by a fellow colleague and friend, Dan McGrath, who states that Greenland's dry snow zone will likely disappear within the next several decades if current warming continues.  It's a result not unexpected to glaciologists here.  Among other things, he notes that "more work needs to be done to untangle these impacts."

Greenlandic weather threw us seven innings of curve balls this field season, but as I pore through pictures of our past month's foray, I find myself a bit amazed at the richness of the data set we accumulated under even the worst of conditions.  Over a dozen logged, measured and sampled firn cores.  A hundred and fifty kilometers of continuous high-resolution GPR (ground penetrating radar), ready to process and uplink to a coincident and vast airborne dataset.  An entirely new suite of stations transmitting data to improve satellite mass balance measurments... just to name few.  Every core we pulled up and every radar profile we collected points to unmistakable rapid changes happening in Greenland's snow and ice at every elevation we visited.  We see it.  We know it.  But right now it's as if we're the only ones who do.  The work isn't done yet.  Samples need to be analyzed, core densities digitized, radar algorithms written, processed and calibrated.  Plots need to be created, maps generated; results submitted, reviewed and published.  We realize we still have as many questions as we do answers, and we're already discussing the needed foci of future campaigns (funding proposals need to be written and submitted, campaigns planned, logistics organized... rinse and repeat).

But even a tireless scientist finds time to breathe, and with our science cargo returning from the ice tomorrow at the earliest (precluding a day of sorting, drying and repacking), we were able to take a welcome rest day in Kangerlussuaq.  A short hike this afternoon found us staring at a small herd of muskox, two of them butting heads in displays of dominance before grazing again on the shores of an Arctic lake.  Even as the implications of our data burn an impatient hole in my mind, I can't help but smile at the beauty of one of the world's greatests wildernesses just a stone's throw outside of town.  For much of the rest of the year we'll be neck-deep in stratigraphy profiles and radar traces.  But today I'm just a lucky man on a sunny Spring day in Kanger.  As soon as my plane touches down in Denver next week, the real work will begin.

Horst at -39°C.  The moisture of our breath froze instantly to any surface it could condense.

Sled packed at 10pm, Dye-2.

Voltage testing a field-repaired GPR battery pack.  A mistake with a Skidoo ripped out a cord and blew an internal fuse, causing half a day's delay to rewire and short-circuit the unit's internal electronics, keeping it running until trip's end.  A successful polar field scientist is equal parts mechanic, electrician, cook, ditch-digger, janitor and survivalist.

Sun halos at Camp-2 after a storm clears, 60 km NNE of Dye-2.
Alex starting another core at 2350 m on our first fully-sunny day in 2 weeks, day 27 of the trip.  The lab coat is a tradition among University of Colorado field geographers, wearing it for photo ops in our working environment.
Logging stratigraphy from a 10 m core at 2350 next to a newly installed Firn Compaction station.
Traversing to Dye-2 on a glorious clear evening, Day 28.
Gear packed and ready to go at Raven Camp.  Day 29.  Koni Steffan's twin otter plane arrived moments later to carry us off the ice.
Musk-oxen near an unnamed lake during a dayhike after trip's end, outside Kangerlussuaq.

Working in the area of "Camp-2"

Mike digging for food during one of the calmer periods of the second storm at Camp-2.
Having arrived at the Camp-2 location work was soon brought to an end by two severe storms. Sitting out weather conditions where visibility often cut down to less than five meters required some measures that might sound strange under normal conditions: We did not leave the mess tent anymore without telling everybody where we were going, as for instance "I am trying to find the Nutella". And when someone announced that he or she will visiti the bathroom (actually "visiting the blizzard" would be a more appropriate description for going to the toilet) your colleagues usually ask back if you have your GPS with you.

Finally wind was catching up to speeds where our mess tent was becoming severely deformed. To protect the tent and its poles from breaking we had to build snow walls. Altough bamboo poles were installed every three meters to mark all directions within the camp, no one was permitted anymore to visit the toilet, and we were moving from tent to tent mostly in groups of two.

The calm evening that followed the abrupt ending of a storm that lasted for 36 hours
Both storms rewarded us with incredibly calm evenings. Memorable was the abrupt ending of the second storm: we were sitting in the mess tent playing a game of dice and all of a sudden there was nothing but silence where only seconds ago we heard the permanent howling of the storm. We all hold our breath, waiting only for an even stronger return of the storm but for the rest of the day there was incredible silence and the sky over the ice sheet slowly cleared up.

Installing the tower of the coffee-can installation at point 2350 m a.s.l.
Maybe we encountered five, maybe six storms during the expedition. Some of them lasted for 12 hours, some for three days. The abrupt ending of the second storm at Camp-2 finally marked a change in the general weather pattern and from there on we enjoyed great weather. Finally weather permitted to drill five cores in a day. Another day we drilled several cores and installed a complete set of coffe cans. While working out there in the bright sun and seing work progressing so fast we often had to smile, telling ourselves that we had waited maybe 25, maybe 26 days for this kind of weather :-)

Finishing work at Dye-2

Mark and Babis coring at point 2050 m a. s. l.. 

Knowing that bad weather is about to move in we drilled as many firn cores as possible within short time. The plan was to analayze the cores later in the workshop tent during the upcoming stormy days.

Goodby friends and thanks for your great help! Mark, Liam, Babis and Dirk walk to the Hercules that brought  them back to Kangerlussuaq.
Standing at the margin of the taxiway we watched our friends boarding the Hercules. At this point we were thinking how nice it would be now also to take a warm shower. But also of all the remaining work - exciting on the one hand and alarming on the other hand because various important tasks were still on the agenda. ...and were hoping that the second half of our expedition might bring more favourable weather conditions.

Sampling cores inside the workshop tent - Mike and Alex.
Now being a group of four (Karen, Alex, Mike and Horst) we started to sample and log the cores we had drilled in the previous days. Strong winds forced us to sample the cores inside the workshop tent. However, stormy weather on the ice sheet often means "warm" weather and all four of us inside the narrow tent brought temperatures close to the freezing point. This made working with the ice cores difficult and we had to open the flap which helped to reduce temperatures - but - resulted in large amounts of snow beeing blown into the tent...

Karen consolidating our food supplies.
After three stormy days we broke down our tents and traversed north. Halfway to the "Camp-2" location one of our skidoos broke down and for one night we stayed in our improvised "Camp-1.5" (see also previous blog entry).

A sudden ending

Yesterday, while watching Chasing Ice on the big screen, I got a phone call from Horst's mobile. Not the satellite phone, but his own. As this meant that the field party was near a cell tower of which there are none on the ice sheet, I could not resist the urge to pick up in the cinema. Apparently they got a ride down one day before the scheduled departure, flying with well-known scientist Koni Steffen. Horst's message was: "Where are our clean clothes?! I'm heading into the shower!"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dead birds everywhere

One of the birds of unknown species that we met after approx. May 12 everywhere on our traverses. The picture of this particular bird was taken from a distance of one meter but one could also approach much closer.
Again the weather has cleared during what must be one of the least fortunate field campaigns in Greenland in terms of weather. They did manage to drive up to 2350 m to drill their highest ice core, but as anticipated couldn't make it to the ice divide, 30 km further and 100 m higher. The aimed distance of radar measurements was adjusted down. Also taken off the program was the Parca-site core, which would have added a lot to interpreting evidence of climate change in the region. It is a shame when you aim high & not get there, but the group has collected a large amount of very interesting data in spite of generally bad weather - impressive!

Yesterday and the day before the weather was nicer than ever... Only ten degrees C below freezing, no wind and lots of sun - perfect conditions and a good time to finally take off some layers that have been warn for weeks on end. They processed their most recent core and started packing up camp. With only 3 days left before their planned Twin Otter flight down to Kangerlussuaq it is best to make a run for Dye-2 before the weather comes in again and they are stuck on the ice sheet longer!

The team mentioned that the bad weather over the past weeks must have taken quite some birds off their route during seasonal migration... They reported hundreds of sparrow-like birds around camp. The birds must have been happy to see something else than the endless white snow surface and decided to take a rest. For quite a few this is the last stop. The ones that stay alive are too exhausted to worry about the humans in their puffy clothes and don't mind being picked up by hand - which is quite necessary when the birds take shelter underneath your snow mobile.

Monday, May 20, 2013

More pictures

The pictures in chronological order and some brief explanations from the first part of the expedition that accumulated in my camera (minus those taken for maintenance purposes) can be found here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Barrel blown away and the philosophical dilemma of what to do with waste on the ice sheet

We just got a txt message from the group that experienced the wind suddenly calming... When emerging to survey their snow-drifted camp, an empty fuel drum was missing and is presumed blown away.

I've seen old rusty discarded or lost barrels on the inland ice. It's of course not a pleasant site nor is losing a barrel a positive thing. For one, the barrel's are not cheap. But it raises an interesting philosophical dilemma. Do you leave behind your trash in the accumulation area of the ice sheet where it will become buried for perhaps many thousands of years, doing practically no no environmental harm? Or do you spend fuel, time, energy returning waste to the coast where it is burned in an open pit fire? Well, of course, a barrel would be reused, sparing the cost (environmental and otherwise) of replacement. But what about spent flashlight batteries? I've seen colleagues argue hotly on Greenland ice taking opposing sides with this dilemma. In my case, I pack out all my trash, but just to be burned open pit?

What's your opinion?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Pinned Down" by wind, again

Mike MacFerrin just called using satellite phone. They are stuck in their tent, again, "pinned down" by strong wind and blowing snow above eye level.

This time, they are stuck 60 km north north east of DYE 2 at 2150 m elevation.

To make the most of being stuck they managed yesterday to drill a core. And Mike has been busy gathering radar profiles by driving distances on the snowmobile.

Two days ago there strongholds tent was blown-in on one side by strong winds. Today, that tent is in its normal shape. They had average 30 knot winds during the phone call.

The weather has been making their work unusually difficult. Mike estimated only 3-4 days calm weather out of 21 days. Yesterday, after spending the time to get the sleds ready for traverse, the wind came up and they got into another hold pattern. Mike estimates that at least half of the plans were forced to change because of weather. So, the word "frustrating" came up more than once in the conversation.

The relatively low temperatures have been taking a toll on the group. Yesterday, after a trip to the 'yellow point', two of the party spent the rest of the day just warming themselves back up. The group was having a laugh about one of the party who was eating coconut butter straight from the can.

I could clearly hear the flapping of the tents over the satellite phone. I do not remember that experience. Although in my past experience, I was not on the comfortable end of the phone.

I have been looking at satellite derived service reflectivity data from recent days and clearly they are getting more snow and so the snow drought has come to an end now. The timing for winter to return after a warm dry spell is the opposite of fortuitous.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Living with failing snow mobiles and the worst storm yet

Yesterday the team attempted to reach the old 'PARCA' ice core site, but after 17 km again a snow mobile died... Got it working again but decided to return to camp for safety. Good call! They changed plans and Alex and Horst achieved to retrieve a very nice core with some interesting findings at 2250 m above sea level, which was 31 km up-slope from camp. Meanwhile Mike and Karen also delivered: 30 km of radar measurements towards the former KAN_U camp and the installation of an IMAU automated GPS 'S11'.

But that was it. Since then a new storm came in - even worse than the two previous ones. They had to re-secure all tents and build snow walls around them to keep them from flattening by wind force. Today, all four of them are stuck in the tents, sitting it out... They mentioned things were "miserable", but said it while laughing, so they are making the best of it! Today's entertainment is Uno... Tomorrow's 'entertainment' is logger the drilled core, if weather permits.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Terrible traverse

After a day without news, Horst phoned in again just now. Yesterday they traversed to the Camp 2 location, and when I asked how it went he replied "terrible, difficult". One skidoo broke down, forcing them to camp halfway. They got the machine running again with instructions over the phone, luckily. But during the rest of the trip, amongst other difficulties, one of their fuel barrels got punctured, twice... Horst was surprised how much stuff they still have to drive around, even after the departure of half of the team.

At the moment conditions up there are still 'good', with -28 C and blue skies. But the forecast tells them that there will be another turn for the worse, with snowfall and high wind speeds. The weather is definitely not cooperating this season. It is amazing how much the group has accomplished in spite of the ongoing climate attack! Then again, there wouldn't be an ice sheet if the weather was fair all the time.

Today they will attempt to drill an ice core at the 'PARCA site', 60 km north of Camp 2. This is an old drill site that will provide very interesting insights in climate change, comparing the new and old cores. Unfortunately, the team decided to cancel going to the ice divide. Taking down camp and traversing is simply too difficult and time-consuming. Highest location might be around 2350 m instead, which is pretty good if you ask me...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Nothing warms you like digging snow

Weather on the ice today was good, fiiiinally. The team spent lots of time digging out boxes and tents from the huge snow drifts, but still managed to install the last of Mike snow compaction compaction instruments. From now on, nearly all focus will be on moving across the ice sheet, taking radar measurements of ice layers in the snow, and drilling ice cores.

A highlight was a gift from Drew, who is one of the three people keeping the runway open during the spring and summer. Apples and oranges. First fresh food in weeks!

Tomorrow more calm weather forecasted, so ACT-13 will try to break up camp and move to the next camp location (confusingly called "camp 2").

In the mean time Babis, Mark and Dirk returned to Copenhagen today. From now on it's all up to Karen, Alex, Horst and Mike.

"last 4 days permanent storm"

transcription from satellite comms with Horst, pictured below.

"last 4 days permanent storm" ... "yesterday the worst" ... core "processing in the tent" ... "still at DYE-2" ... "no visibility out here" ... "nearly froze our hands" ... "now it's better finally"

But "forecast not that brilliant" ... "then packing for next traverse"

"How are thinks in Copenhagen?" "I guess you have the same temperatures but with a plus in front?"

He's right, in recent days, Copenhagen has been up to +17 C. Today at DYE-2, -18 C.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Snow storm

While we are enjoying today (09/05/2013) our last evening in Kangerlussuaq, the gang up on the ice sheet had a storm pilling up snow around the tents of as high as 1.5 m high. Lots of digging in the wind to relief the surrounding area. The group stayed in the tents most of the day, completing the logging of the last available core and Mike inventing the "Musk Ox nuggets" that everybody enjoyed for dinner!
Meanwhile, us down here finally got a helicopter flight up to KAN_L and performed maintenance there. Currently, preparing for a cozy drinking evening!

First time to Dye-2

-Hey Dirk, have you ever been here before?
-Nope. First time to Dye-2 (die too).
Laughter followed within seconds, after realizing Dirk’s intended pun describing our situation the first evening we landed on the ice sheet. Around us, the most hostile conditions of the past decade with strong winds and extreme cold that made our whiskey give up its liquid form and turn into bottled ice cubes. In front of us, the bizarre view of a golf-ball-like structure that deformed the dusk horizon like we have never seen before while on the ice. Inside us, the subtle warmth of the cigarette smoke accompanying the modest satisfaction of our recently consumed dinner that was swallowed fast enough to provide us with at least a faint taste of normality rapidly giving way to the life on the field. Our night ended a bit afterwards with the whole group nesting in our tends and sleeping bags, trying to regain some strength with some uncomfortable sleep that would allow us to traverse in the morning to KAN_U and set up the first camp of our planned fieldwork.
The next morning, everything went according to plan with us successfully migrating from Dye-2 to our home for the next two weeks, while giving a few last hasty stares to this magnificent piece of polar history. Our two weeks at KAN_U passed relatively fast with ups and downs in our work progress tightly correlated to the weather conditions of every given day. Drilling and sampling cores, maintaining our weather stations and instrumentation went very well, considering that we spent few days in the mess tent, forced to postpone the planned activities for the following days.

During those days in the tent, passing the time included large doses of Jelly Bellies and Swiss Misses, Pringles and Stacy’s Chips with the peak of the day being Liam’s dinner and the subsequent hard liquor consumption to end the day. Lively Uno rounds were filling in along with siestas and vivid conversations with a lot of inappropriate jokes. Somewhere squeezed in between, where Liam’s descriptions of his impressions of Dye-2. Been the only one of our group who had been inside the abruptly abandoned radar station of the cold war period, he talked about weird staircase constructions, books and burned classified documents and unfinished meals standing on the tables due to the immediate evacuation in August 1989. Our plan to relocate to Camp 2 along the K-transect was abandoned due to the time pressure that was forced upon us from the frequent snow storms. The decision to move camp back to Dye-2 three days prior to our departure and perform the work there first, lit up my will to enter the building before leaving the ice and see for myself all the things Liam was talking about.
Sunday the 5th we spent on Dye-2. It was a day of great work when Dirk and I drilled out two 16 m cores. A well-deserved Musk Ox stew was waiting for us for dinner to celebrate the two newly arrived members of our group (Alex and Karen) and our departure from the ice the following day. Being Greek, I also called my parents to inform them that I will get my wine and meat and celebrate somewhat the Orthodox Easter Sunday with my ice mates. After devouring the delicacies that Liam laid before us at around 21:00, the only thing I could think and say was: “Let’s go to Dye-2. Last chance to do it, let’s just go in there. We need some culture Liam, you promiced me.”. Gladly, all the guys from the group were also up for it and Liam, being the experienced, took it upon him to be our guide through this experience. Fast ski-dooing brought us close to the huge snow drift that has built up around Dye-2 over the past 24 years. Excitement was apparent in all of our faces. Sliding down the slope of the snow barrier, we found ourselves under the building and towards the ladder of the entrance. Flashlights were switched on and the adventure began!

A few snow-blown corridors and halls of the first floor were rapidly left behind and we found ourselves in the second floor. Exactly as described, workshop shelves and storage rooms with all sorts of equipment from huge gas pipes to small outdated electronics were there to be found. The bar of the once active facility, still accommodated its pool table and the huge world map behind it. Empty bottles of whiskey with unknown labels to us were left empty on the bar probably by skiers passing by throughout the past two decades.

A small conference room for talks and briefings came afterwards and somewhat later we found the room with the huge power generators, the heart of this once alive organism. Rooms for the personnel, suddenly evacuated with only beds, mattresses, desks and chairs left inside.

Random private stuff left behind, lightbulbs, ashrays, sometimes even personal letters left behind during the hasty exit. Some broken windows let the Greenland weather in, filling up some rooms almost entirely with snow.

Documents of low importance still stacked inside their huge drawers located next to the radiation-shielded room for the telecommunications and monthly calendars of past seasons randomly flown on the floor. Still standing, we found in the reading room the book shelves holding part of the literature – English and Danish – that the facility included during the end. Also, magazines with old news and articles were scattered on the floor, result probably of ungrateful tourists that took shelter within the walls of Dye-2.

Making our way to the top, we found ourselves in the huge radar dome. Incredible acoustics echoed our voices in a ghostly way and Dirk’s dance steps were amplified into an army of crazy dancers. Names scratched by visitors on the shell of the radar and the dates of their visits gave the room a sense of importance and achievement in the people’s lives that have found themselves there. On the outside of the door, in the perimeter we saw our little camp in about 1 km distance and in between the runway that was separating us from Dye-2 all along. Pictures with great poses were taken and “glorious cigarettes” were lit next to our “glad og tilfreds” faces.

Our way down, brought us to the lower exterior levels where several meteorological sensors were still standing. Several boxed food supplies were still lying there unopened along with Coke cans and frozen Carlsberg beers. Before exiting the building, we found the secretary’s room and browsed through the visitors' log book. To our surprise, after turning a couple of pages, we found a familiar name on there: Jason E. Box, USA, 10 May 2003. We thought it would be nice to write also our names there as representatives of the ACT-13.

All the time I was there I was looking for a souvenir, something small possibly like a screw from the workshop or a small piece of document, something that wouldn't alter much this polar relic. The best souvenir possible came to me in the secretary’s room, right there before exiting: A Stanley flask from a careless cross-country skier full of cognac, nicely aged through freezing Greenlandic winters, right at the time when mine just run out. Gladly consumed at KISS these past few days.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Strong wind - slow progress

Horst informed us during the daily call-in yesterday evening that bad weather continues at Dye-2. We created a stock of ice cores before the rotation of the crew, just so that Mike, Horst, Karen and Alex would be able to keep production (core sampling) up during the upcoming period of bad weather - during which there is no leaving the camp. But apparently even core sampling was difficult to do behind the snow wall that functions as a wind shelter. They did manage to process one full core though, which takes half a day in good conditions (slicing up 16 meters into 10 cm sections, weighing it and put some of it in small sample tubes). Also, the last of the snow compaction equipment was constructed in the work tent, ready to be installed whenever weather calms down again. This picture shows one of these devices already installed at KAN_U; it is drilled down 15 m.

In the mean time the rest of us are still in Kangerlussuaq, except for Liam who returned to Copenhagen yesterday evening. Babis is helping out Andreas Mikkelsen, valued member of last year's campaign, who is currently re-installing a river-discharge station at the Kangerlussuaq bridge that was washed away last summer during extreme melt (see the video here).

Mark is packing up and shipping out the IMAU snowdrift equipment that was running at KAN_U over the winter.

I, on the other hand, was hoping to fly to the last of the GEUS weather stations (part of the Greenland Analogue Project) in the region by helicopter. But this got postponed once again... Yesterday because the pilot was suffering from from food poisoning (hooray for local cuisine), today because of low clouds and snowfall. Tomorrow we try again! We are running out of time though - planned departure is Friday!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ice coring and more bad weather

ACT13 has now pulled out its sixth shallow firn/ice core. Core six, from which we will reconstruct annual variability in summer melt back at least two decades, was recovered from just south of the abandoned Dye-2 radar station. As the coring site was located on the other side of the US Air Force C-130 (Hercules) runway from our camp, we would have to wait for up to 30 min for clearance when commuting across the active runway.

We're especially excited about core six, as a core was recovered from the exact same location by NASA's PARCA (Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment) project back in the 1990s. The means we can make a direct comparison of how the amount of refrozen meltwater retained in the firn as ice has changed over the past two decades. At first glance, it's obvious that there is way more ice in the firn now than two decades ago. We're hoping to nail down exactly how much more, and even figure out how much meltwater generated at Dye-2 might be running off to the ocean (as opposed to refreezing in place).

Unfortunately, bad weather has once again moved into the area. As we perform our ice core processing outdoors, the core processing can easily be derailed by high winds (even when we build large snow walls to act as wind breaks). The first thing to happen during processing is logging the core stratigraphy (the layering of firn and ice). The core is then cut with a hand saw into little 10 cm sections and weighed for density. Finally, a drill is used to pull out little plugs of ice from each section to send back to Copenhagen for isotopic analysis. Each of these tasks is increasingly difficult to perform as the amount of blowing snow increases.

So, while another strong storm has cancelled C-130 flights in and out of Dye-2 and forced the ACT13 crew to once again batten down the hatches, at least we can take comfort in the fact that strong storms tend to bring warmer air on to the ice sheet. Our team members deployed on the ice sheet have already had their fill of whiskey-freezing nights thanks!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Return to civilization / end of part one

So, it seems that my two most recent voice mail messages by satellite phone on the ice sheet did not come through to Jason... But in short: we are all fine & happy. Liam, Babis, Mark and I are happy because we are back in the relative luxury in Kangerlussuaq (where there are showers). Mike and Horst are happy because they finally saw us leave, I can only assume.

To briefly recap the past few days: we got out firn cores 3, 4 and 5 (with some interesting discoveries strongly supporting a change in the melt over the past decades), did a long stretch of radar measurements in the - if you ask me - most interesting part of the ice sheet (not high, not low), installed firn compaction devices, etc, etc, and in between all this packed up camp at KAN_U and put it up again at the former US radar station Dye-2. Lots of good data gathered. Field chiefs Horst and Mike seemed pleased.

The four of us (Babis, Mark, Liam, me) got flown back to Kangerlussuaq today on board a giant Hercules plane, together with a lot of no-longer-needed science gear. Yesterday, fresh blood arrived in the form of Uni of Colorado students Karen and Alex. After what must have been a shock to their systems - many hours of sleepless flight to Greenland and pretty much continuing to the ice sheet right away - they quickly got the hang of ice sheet camp life.

Weather over the past weeks was a lot colder than I experienced on previous occasions, with the coldest nights getting close to -40 C. At this temperature staying warm at night requires 3 layers of clothing, a very warm sleeping bag, two mattresses, and a warm (boiling) water bottle. And then there was the storm... Impressive doesn't quite cover it. Not very cold, but extreme wind chill and only a few meters visibility due to snow being blown around. Walking over to the pee stick, 10 meters from the dome tent where we eat and sit and wait for bad weather to pass, can be very dangerous when you lose sight of the big orange thing going just half of the distance (that's why we have marker poles). You cool down a lot in a minute outside and need to get out of the wind before frost bites.

On the ice we learned that during our scientific expedition a UK expedition traversing the ice sheet got into big trouble, not even that far away from us on the Greenland scale, resulting in the death of an expedition member. Scary stuff. Reality sinks in even more when you learn such news. Not that we were worried for ourselves, with double back-ups of everything, but it did get quiet in the camp for a while.

Lots of pictures and a description of our last night on the ice coming up soon, involving the exploration of the spooky abandoned radar station Dye-2. We'll also keep blogging about the remaining four friends on the ice, driving their snow mobiles to higher and higher elevations... In the mean time the rest of us will have a warm, comfortable night, and perhaps a few beers before then (which is something you have to do without when temperatures are way below freezing).


Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 May "They had two people go into the field today. 4 will come out tomorrow. They are doing well.

Kathy Young
Greenland Field Science Coordinator

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"lots of blowing snow so we are stuck in the tent"

from satellite phone SMS:

"well, yesterday Mark and Liam traversed successfully to DYE-2 to drop off 700 kg of the equipment and Mike GPR'd [ground penetrating radar'ed] 50 km but Babis and Horst didn't make it to the 4th core site 45 km up [glacier] due to white out and wind picking up [they knew the weather was closing]. Today we had 70+ km/h winds, lots of blowing snow so we are stuck in the tent still at KAN_U. Dirk"

The map below illustrates how temperatures have been ~10 C below normal (brrrr) the past 10 days while our campers are trying to work.

work progressing, weather closing

Yesterday afternoon (1 May), I got a call from Dirk van As giving status update for the team...

weather stations LAN_U and KAN_M are/were running fine

3rd ~20 m core being drilled today 2 May

Liam and Mark returning to DYE-2 to return snow drift sensors and resupply with fuel.

After much effort, got ground penetrating radar (GPR) working

Dirk had to dig 1.7 m down to service a GPS for A. Hubbard.

weather should be closing in on them today 2 May.

The team plans to return to DYE-2 for a crew rotation 6 or 7 May

Dirk aims to return to Copenhagen 10 May

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weather colder than last year and everything takes longer than planned

SMS from sat phone 29 April

"hi j, yesterday [28 April] 3 coffee cans [compaction sensors] installed, KAN_U weather station serviced and IMAU snow drift sensors taken down. productive but cold and windy. Today Mark [of IMAU] and I [Dirk] drove to KAN_M and S9 while the others [Horst, Babis, Liam] drilled the 2nd core and do a GPR [Ground Penetrating Radar] line. Weather colder than last year and everything takes longer than planned but spirits ar"

I think the SMS reached the character limit.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

First core out and compaction sensor installed

Text message this morning from late yesterday:

First firn/ice core out today! 18 m, Babis–Liam drilling, Horst – Dirk logging. Coffee cans installed by Mike. Moderate weather conditions, morale real high! Celebration with MuskOx stew by Liam and red wine! cheers, Babis

Friday, April 26, 2013

varied and challenging weather as the traverse begins

The Arctic Circle Traverse is now already to its first destination; KAN_U...
Arctic Circle Traverse 2010 photo. J. Box

I just heard from the team by satellite phone. The first 2 days were extremely cold, they guess as low as -40 C (same as F). They asked me to check the weather from the nearby DYE-2 automatic weather station (AWS) that transmits data to a web interface developed by N. Bayou in Colorado. Here's the data...

DYE-2 automatic weather station (AWS) data. I installed this station in 1996.
The data from the DYE-2 automatic weather station confirm the story Dirk relayed by phone; COLD on arrival, once arriving to KAN_U after 65 km traverse (taking the better part of a day) it was very windy. Hourly average wind above 10 m/s is plenty of wind to drift snow. The wind calmed and was followed by snowfall.

The last I heard on the phone was that "the GEUS weather station..." CALL DROP [was running?] I really hope so. 

I also learned that the SMS I had sent replying to that I received did not make it. So, the SMS communicaitons seem one-way unless we text using the Iridium web site.

Today is Horst's birthday. He is celebrating by having a cold, literally and figuratively. Get well Horst!

blogging one for the team - Jason Box