Day3: Sledding Down an Ice Cap (Sort Of)

March 15th, 2011 by LCDR John Woods

March 12, 2o11

Saturday morning at Thule AFB is pretty slow paced. MIDN Brugler and I went to the gym around 0730, and we were the only ones there, except for a few Air Force guys. We had a lazy but productive morning (laundry, some research, email) in preparation for our sled ride trek in the afternoon coordinated by the base Activities center. The group was supposed to take us to the ice cap, however, the access road was closed, so we searched for an alternate site. We hitched a ride with some Greenland contractors (Danish citizens who work at Thule for years at a time), and we actually ended up going over to Dundas Village again. This time it was a much easier voyage via car, rather than walking across the sea ice. Also, the sun was shining bright, so the icebergs in the bay were even more spectacular!

While waiting for the start of the Operation IceBridge mission, Woods and Brugler tried sledding in Greenland. Credit: John Woods

We finally ended up finding a spot to go sledding, and it had a great overlook of the entire base, harbor, and Detachment 1 site. The airstrip is enormous, and we had a perfect vantage point from where we were sledding. Thule operates a modern airfield with a 10,000-foot runway and more than 3,000 U.S. and international flights per year. Looking off in one direction you could see the harbor where each summer a Maritime Sealift Command docks with a fuel re-supply.  The base is home to the northernmost deepwater port in the world. Off to the south we could see Detachment 1, where the US Air Force’s 23rd Space Wing’s global network of sensors providing missile warning, space surveillance and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command and Air Force Space Command. It was a great panoramic vantage point in beautiful weather (only minus 5 degrees today with a minus 20 degree wind chill!)

Detachment 1 can be seen from the panoramic vantage point of Dundas Village. Credit: John Woods

Everyone had fun sledding and snowboarding down the side of the hill. The snow was very dry and not very deep. The surface was a bit inconsistent and varied between ice, snow, and rocks.  It reminded me of my early years learning to ski in New Jersey. Following the sled trip we went back to the community center and traded stories of how fun it was hiking back up the hill after a very fast sled ride down, no chair lifts here in northwest Greenland. It was another fun-filled day with once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

We’re still waiting for the P-3 to show up, after which we can start collecting some sea ice data! One more day of “Thule Trippin” tomorrow, then we get down to business on Monday when the plane and rest of the NASA and instrument teams arrive.

One Response to “Day3: Sledding Down an Ice Cap (Sort Of)”

  1. Ben says:

    The scene reminds me of the movie 9 Songs in a way. Man, this might really be so cold and I thought Greenland was lush with vegetation.

Notes from the Field