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Ready, Set, Go!

April 14th, 2015 by Lynn Montgomery, University of Maryland

 

The team loads the final gear for the first flight.

The team loads the final gear for the first flight.

After many long days of waiting, we got an update yesterday that our helicopters would be down until April 16. We have had bad luck so far with delays – mechanical difficulties and bad weather. The team’s morale sunk to an all-time low with this news. We had been anxiously awaiting a call each day to tell us we were going to fly.

This morning, April 10, we got the news that we would probably not be flying because the helicopter was still not ready to go. Disappointed, we went on about our daily activities including going to the store and exploring town. When we got back, we heard exciting news. Fin, our pilot, had called saying he was on his way and to get ready for two flights today! The team sprang into action, furiously packing bags, driving to the airport, and getting camp and science gear into the final loads.

The Bell 212 helicopter landed around 2:30 p.m. We began to pack all of our things in when the pilot announced we could only take 650 kilos instead of the initial weight we had thought of 800 kilos. We had already stripped our science and camp gear down to the bare bones to fit the first weight limit. With this new cut, we had to take out even more gear within minutes. Although we had to cut down the first flight, the rest will be put on the second flight. Josh, Olivia, and Clem left successfully landed on the ice sheet.

Clem, Olivia, and Josh ready to get into the field.

Clem, Olivia, and Josh ready to get into the field.

The helicopter made good time, returning for the second flight around 4:30 pm. This time, they upped the weight limit to 900 kilos from 650 kilos for the first flight. Instead of having a weight problem, we were quickly maxing out on volume. At the end, we successfully got most of our science, camp gear, and food in plus Lora and Kip! We are so excited that the initial team has set up camp and is ready for the first night out in the field. I will go in on one of the next few flights.

Packing the gear into the second flight.

Packing the gear into the second flight.

Lora and Kip packed in and ready to go!

Lora and Kip packed in and ready to go!

Flying off to the ice sheet.

Flying off to the ice sheet.

There are two sling loads planned for the next two flights to take in the drill and the two snowmobiles plus more science gear. Anatoly will arrive soon on April 15 and Nick on April 20. We are slowly but surely getting all of our gear and scientists into the field.

More Delays and an Earthquake

April 9th, 2015 by Lora Koenig
Lynn, Lora, and Olivia watching the northern lights. Photo by Clément Miège.

Lynn, Lora, and Olivia watching the northern lights. Photo by Clément Miège.

Today (March 8, 2015) marks our tenth day in Kulusuk. We are now officially three days late getting into the field. This is pretty typical for field work in this area but we are still a bit restless, ready to get to our final destination and start taking our measurements.

Our standard day in Kulusuk starts with breakfast at the hotel.  After breakfast we hear from the helicopter pilots as to whether we have a chance of flying. There is one Air Greenland helicopter right now for this region that is responsible for commercial traffic, taking supplies to the nearby villages and charter flights, like ours. Our first delays started on Sunday and Monday when the helicopter was grounded needing to have some standard maintenance. While we were disappointed to not fly, it really didn’t matter because we were in the biggest storm yet with 40-knot winds. No flying no matter what! The storm and maintenance aligning was actually quite lucky. We tinkered with some final gear, caught up on email, and on Monday night settled in for a movie at the hotel. Towards the end of the movie we heard a strange rattling noise. It was a small earthquake! We emailed Nick and he sent us some great information from the seismometers near by showing the quake which was a 1.9 on the Richter scale. Too bad we didn’t have our seismic equipment deployed or we would have even more data.

A map of the Danish Seismological Network (red dots), showing the stations in the area and the black star the approximate location of the Earthquake.

A map of the Danish Seismological Network (red dots), showing the stations in the area and the black star the approximate location of the Earthquake.

The waveforms from stations near Kulusuk, the event rolled through around 9:11 pm  local time at Tasiilaq. It was a high frequency earthquake!

The waveforms from stations near Kulusuk. The event rolled through around 9:11 pm local time at Tasiilaq. It was a high frequency earthquake!

On Tuesday we woke to blue skies and great views of the surrounding mountains. I packed up my final bag before I even came up to breakfast expecting to fly. At breakfast the call from the pilot brought very bad news. The maintenance on the helicopter detected another issue that required a new part. The helo is now grounded and expected to be for a while. There is another smaller helo on its way to Kulusuk but it will not arrive until the end of the week. We have adjusted all of our loads so that we can use either Helo, whichever is ready first and, hopefully, we can use both to make up some time.

We spent the rest of the beautiful day on Tuesday testing our hydrology equipment and a new ice core drill on a nearby frozen lake. In the evening, the clear skies allowed us to see the Northern lights for the first time on this trip, and for many on the team, for the first time ever. We made the best of the day considering we would have preferred to be in the field. Now we will just wait for both a weather window and a working helicopter. It just started snowing outside again so we may be here for a while longer. Fingers Crossed.

Clem, Josh and Lora testing the new ice core drill.

Clem, Josh, and Lora testing the new ice core drill.

Kip and Olivia testing the hydrology equipment to penetrate through the ice into the water.

Kip and Olivia testing the hydrology equipment to penetrate through the ice into the water.

Snowy Easter in Kulusuk

April 8th, 2015 by Clément Miège

Greetings from Kulusuk and Happy Easter! The Easter Bunny made a short trip to Kulusuk this morning and we happily found some chocolates at the hotel!

Easter-egg hunt in the snow

Easter-egg hunt in the snow.

Otherwise, our team is not on the ice sheet yet because of the bad weather we are experiencing. Today, it is snowing continuously and the visibility is poor–it’s impossible to fly a helicopter in those conditions. We are patiently waiting for a break in the weather to be able to fly out to our field camp.

On Friday we spent a few hours in the village of Kulusuk, about a 20-minute walk from the hotel. We got our remaining supplies for the field, propane, and food, at the local store and walked around for a bit.

Greenlandic dog and puppy hanging out in the village.

Greenlandic dog and puppy hanging out in the village.

On Saturday, the weather was better. But because the Air Greenland B-212 helicopter was busy with commercial flights, we decided to go on a hike to the old DYE site, about 8 km south from the hotel. The DYE-4 site is located on a hill south of the village of Kulusuk and overlooking the ocean, giving us a great viewpoint to look at both sea ice and mountains. Historically, the DYE sites were built by the Americans during the Cold War, and were equipped with long-range radars to provide an early warning for potential missiles.

It seemed like a great goal for a Saturday afternoon hike. After a few hours, we made it to the final ridge, with skis or on foot, leading to the old station. This last stretch was quite entertaining because of extensive patches of blue ice on the ridge that we had to walk across. The ice is formed due to a combination of strong winds and accretion. To make it even more interesting, the ice was hiding underneath a few inches of fresh snow. So we ended up sliding quite a bit and even the edges of the skis were not sharp enough! True dust on crust conditions!

Photo of the current facilities at the DYE-4 site.

Photo of the current facilities at the DYE-4 site.

Up there, the views were fantastic. The radar station was removed but a few other buildings remained and some newer antennas were built for communication means. You can find below a few photos of the hike.

Team photo at Dye-4! From left to right: Josh, Lynn, Olivia, Joe, and Clem.

Team photo at DYE-4! From left to right: Josh, Lynn, Olivia, Joe, and Clem.

Views on the sea ice, ocean and a few icebergs.

View of the sea ice, ocean, and a few icebergs.

On the other side, views of the fjord and mountains.

On the other side, views of the fjord and mountains.

Can you spot the helicopter on this one?

Can you spot the helicopter on this one?

Today is Easter but with the good amount of fresh fallen snow, we could have gotten confused with Christmas! We finished preparing a few things and we are more than ready to go now. According to the DMI forecast, our future is not too promising, unfortunately. It is supposed to keep snowing until Tuesday morning, but the weather should improve! So we keep our fingers crossed! Again, happy Easter to everyone!

The forecast from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) is not too inspiring, unfortunately.

The forecast from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) is not too inspiring, unfortunately.

Hurry up and overweight!

April 7th, 2015 by Lora Koenig
Our gear and the C-130. We were dropped off with our gear in Kulusuk by the C-130.

Our gear and the C-130. We were dropped off with our gear in Kulusuk by the C-130.

Hurry up and wait may the best way to describe our schedule lately.   You never know exactly when a plane or helicopter will be ready to take you into the field or when the weather will be good. All you can control is when you have your gear ready to go.

The C-130 dropped us off in Kulusuk, Greenland on Sunday (3/29/15) with over 13,000 pounds of science gear, snowmobiles, food and people. All the gear was loaded on 3 big pallets and fork lifted outside the airport next to a shipping container. Joe immediately started breaking down the pallets so we could start organizing the gear for the field. Monday brought a storm so we had to wait until Tuesday to sort our gear into the approximate Helicopter loads. We will be using a Bell 212 Helo to get into the field using 10 flights over 5 weeks to get the gear in and out.

Sorting the gear was difficult this year. We will be conducting five different science projects to better determine the amount of water retained in the ice in this portion of SE Greenland (you will hear about each separately in the blogs to come). We have to make sure all the gear for each helo load includes everything we need for each particular science project. For instance, we had to make sure the generator for the drill came in with the drill, not with the radar equipment; that the tool kit for the hydro gear was loaded with the hydro gear; and that the emergency and camp gear flew in on the first helo flight, and so on.

As we were moving our boxes around Lynn was diligently taking notes on which boxes were in each load and how much they weighed. Just after our morning team meeting on Wednesday (4/1/15) we put all our boxes in to a spreadsheet to calculate the total weigh for each load. I will backtrack slightly here to tell you a little about Kulusuk, Greenland. It is a beautiful town with mountain peaks rising above it and a beautiful fjord. It is a destination for the very adventurous skier and tourist. It has about 350 residences and one small grocery store. In short, this is not the place you can pick up a spare part, for say, a highly specialized ice core drill or water sampling equipment. So it is very common that we overpack. Send in a few extra spares for the “just in case” scenario and multiple rolls of duct tape.

This year we packed a few extra spares. We were overweight!!! The rest of Wednesday morning was spent on the computer moving boxes around and cutting out what we could to get our gear weight down. In the afternoon we started shifting gear around, and making the changes we had to make.

View from Kulusuk over the sea ice. The low visibility has delayed flights.

View from Kulusuk over the sea ice. The low visibility has delayed flights.

This all occurred at an accelerated rate because we were told by Air Greenland that they could move our flights to our field site earlier, to Thursday (4/2/15). We worked fast and hard to get ready to go. Wednesday night we were tired but ready! Thursday morning brought another storm so instead of heading to the field we got some much needed rest. It is now early Friday (4/3/15) morning, with OK weather. We will have breakfast and wait at the hotel for a 9 am call from the helo pilot to see if we are on the schedule for today. Hopefully we will launch for the field toady with two flights. The first will take Josh, Clem and I along with the camp gear. The second will bring Kip and Olivia and the hydrology. Fingers crossed or getting to our field site and starting the actual science soon. Fingers crossed for getting to our final destination today.

Onward to Southeast Greenland

April 2nd, 2015 by Lynn Montgomery
Amazing view from the plane of an iceberg.

Amazing view from the plane of an iceberg.

After one day of delay due to extenuating circumstances in Kangerlussaq, we got the “OK” to fly across the ice sheet to Southeast Greenland. We gathered all of our gear from the Kangerlussaq International Science Support (KISS) center and headed off on a 1.5 hour flight on the C130 to the town of Kulusuk. Once we arrived, the 13,000 pounds of cargo was unloaded along with all of our personal bags. The cargo included over 1000 pounds of food, scientific field gear, camping gear, and two brand new “Ski-Doo” snowmobiles. Just as quickly as we landed and unloaded, the Air National Guard’s C130 was off for its next mission.

C130 Flight to Kulusuk.  From left to right: Joe, Lynn, Olivia, and Josh.

C130 Flight to Kulusuk. From left to right: Joe, Lynn, Olivia, and Josh.

13,000 pounds of cargo and gear unloaded from the C130.

13,000 pounds of cargo and gear unloaded from the C130.

We headed to Hotel Kulusuk for a quick lunch and group meeting to plan tasks for the day. The main goal was to unpack and take inventory of all of the cargo. Our group made a quick return to the Kulusuk airport, walking on top of the snowpack because the roads are treacherous. The roads have about a 10 foot wall of snow on either side making visibility for vehicles and plows very difficult. We worked the rest of the afternoon breaking down cargo pallets and taking inventory of everything. All gear has been checked off the list and received. A storage container was provided for cargo that could not be left out so priority gear was placed inside. The sun began to go down so we headed back to the hotel for dinner and another group meeting to plan for the next day’s events – grouping gear based on what helicopter flight it will be taken into the field and repackaging cargo to decrease the volume as much as possible.

Kip and Clem working indoors during the bad weather on Monday.

Kip and Clem working indoors during the bad weather on Monday.

This morning, Monday, we woke up bright and early to 30 knot winds with a forecast of 50 knot gusts later in the day. This created whiteout conditions for most of the day, making it very difficult and dangerous to get work done outside. The airport was closed and cancelled all incoming flights, we were very thankful that we got to fly in yesterday. Although conditions are poor, it creates a great analog for the field and we got a chance to try out all of our gear – parkas, snow boots, coveralls, ski goggles, gloves, and baklavas! Lora, Kip, Olivia, and I practiced using the GPS units by wandering around outside near the hotel. Josh, Joe (our Greenland Logistics Coordinator for Polar Field Services), and Olivia ventured out to get a key to the airport so we have access whenever we need. Most of the day was spent inside programming.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks very sunny and great for working outside. Can’t wait to get out in the field!

Notes from the Field