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Notes from the Field

It Takes A Village

March 28th, 2013 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Lora Koenig (as told to María José Viñas)

Kulusuk in East Greenland. Image courtesy of Tom Olliver (Flickr).

Kulusuk in East Greenland. Image courtesy of Tom Olliver (Flickr).

All the members of our team are now in Kulusuk, Greenland. We’re quite isolated in this tiny village but we have a whole team behind us, making sure we get our stuff on time. The people in town are helping us a lot, too (hence the title of this blog post), letting us drive their vehicles or use their buildings to organize our gear.

We have almost all our equipment — except for a couple of important items, like the generator that runs the drill and the ethanol we will use to free the drill if it gets stuck inside the ice. Both items should arrive on Saturday.

When I was in Reykjavik’s airport, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten a backup set of drill cutters (the bits that cut into the snow as the drill goes down) — they were inside a little box that slid under my car’s seat while I was driving to the airport in Maryland. Fortunately, my mom came to the rescue, recovered the box and sent it expedited to Greenland — it should also arrive to Kulusuk on Saturday’s flight. Here’s a big thanks, mom!

Our put-in date continues to be April 1 — in the case not all of the missing gear arrived on Saturday, half of the team might still go to the drill site that day, while the other half will wait for the remaining equipment. We’ll make a firm plan tonight. Meanwhile, the team and I are testing our gear… and enjoying our surroundings! Kulusuk is a small town built around an airstrip and surrounded by big mountains. Its few hundred inhabitants mostly work in the airport, or are hunters or fishermen.

The weather’s beautiful, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and we’ve seen the northern lights — we have great photos that unfortunately, we can’t send right now. (I’ll send pictures as soon as possible, after fieldwork is done and we have a better Internet connection.)


[Note: This blog post was written by María-José Viñas, based on a telephone conversation with Lora Koenig. Normally, Lora writes her own posts and María-José edits and publishes them. However, there is no Internet at Lora’s hotel in Kulusuk until a repairman arrives on Saturday’s flight.]

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2 Responses to “It Takes A Village”

  1. Agnes McClelland says:

    What are you drilling for exactly? Can we all be assured that you ate taking precautions not to contaminate virgin ice and water, unknown species? I was a bit worried to hear that you needed to BORROW alcohol for defrosting.

  2. Lora Koenig says:

    Anges, we are drilling into the ice to look at the surface melt water that is stored 10’s of meters deep in the firn. The water we are looking at is very different from water like that of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The water we are looking at is stored as little droplets in between snow grains. To do this work, as well as most ice coring work, we do use small amounts of alcohol only if our drills get stuck. We use, as well as, are required to use clean, environmentally friendly practices when doing research on the Greenland Ice Sheet. The use of alcohol is a trade-off: we would rather leave a small amount of alcohol, undetectable when diluted by the ice, as opposed to an entire drill. Thanks for following the blog.