Second Time’s the Charm

May 16th, 2011 by Tom Neumannn

May 15, 2011

Snowmobiles are a critical part of polar research as they allow us to travel from a central camp to sites up to 50 miles away. The team worked through strong winds and blowing snow to free four snowmobiles that became drifted over when the platform holding them collapsed. Credit: NASA/Tom Neumann

With a 50-50 chance of good weather, Matt and I headed out to Swiss Camp on Wednesday, May 4. We were lucky to get a break in the clouds and the wind that allowed the plane to land and drop us off safely with Koni and company. The weather continued to deteriorate over the rest of the day as the winds picked up and the snow started to blow.

Everyone was hard at work when we arrived, cleaning up the debris from an impressively strong storm that moved through the area in February. According to preliminary data from the weather station at Swiss Camp, the wind speed exceeded 70 mph for nine straight hours. As you might imagine, this sort of wind was hard on weather stations, Swiss Camp, and anything sticking up out of the snow.

At Swiss Camp, part of the platform next to the kitchen tent had collapsed, causing 4 snowmobiles, 3 barrels of fuel, and about 10 propane tanks to drop down into the snow where the storm quickly buried them. By the time we arrived this week, everything that had had fallen was buried by at least 6 feet of snow and ice. We joined the shoveling brigade through the blowing snow on Wednesday, and succeeded in freeing one of the snowmobiles and most of the fuel.

Tom pokes through a hole in the pit while digging for propane tanks. Credit: Nestor Rial

Removing a frozen skidoo is a team effort - all hands on deck! Credit: Nestor Rial

Tom takes a break during the digging on Wednesday. Credit: Nestor Rial

The wind died down by Thursday, and we freed the remaining snowmobiles by the end of the day.  Everyone was pretty worn out, as you might imagine.  The amazing part of it all was that Koni had all of the snowmobiles functional by the end of the day. We were left with an impressively large hole in the snow next to Swiss Camp, a lot of tired arms and wet clothes, and ready to start the work we came to do.

Thursday dawned clear and calmer, showing that we still had a substantial amount of work left to do. Credit: NASA/Matt Hoffman

ROGUE: Real-time Observations of Greenland’s Under-ice Environment
The goal of the ROGUE project is to examine the nature and cause of short-term ice velocity changes near Swiss Camp, Greenland, by observing interactions between the ice sheet, the atmosphere and the bed.

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