By Rick Forster
Our team finally made it to the ice sheet on April 8, after being delayed for almost two weeks due a series of storms. That day, we awoke to patches of blue sky over the village of Tasiilaq and were eager to get to the heliport for our scheduled 11:40 AM flight to the ice sheet. Lingering clouds over the ice sheet delayed our departure about three hours.
The village of Tasiilaq on the day of our flight to the ice sheet in SE Greenland where the Air Greenland B-212 helicopter is based. (Credit: Rick Forster.)
Once we saw the Air Greenland helicopter returning from its last trip to the local settlements for the day, we knew our flight was next. The trip to our research site on the ice sheet takes about 30 minutes.
The Air Greenland B-212 helicopter landing in Tasiilaq. (credit: Rick Forster.)
The two-week weather delay meant I had to return to the University of Utah while Clem and Ludo would stay on the ice sheet for about 10 days to gather data and perform experiments on the Greenland aquifer. It was a hard decision to make, but I had commitments and if I stayed with the team on the ice sheet, we would all have to leave before all the science could be completed. Ludo and Clem’s schedules were more flexible so they will be able to extend their trip to spend extra time on the ice. I went with the team to the ice sheet to help unload the camp gear from the helicopter at the research site.
From left to right: Clément Miège, Ludovic Brucker, and Rick Forster happy to be finally boarding the helicopter for the flight to the ice sheet. (Credit: Rick Forster.)
The flight to the site was spectacular, going over sea ice chocked fjords and outlet glaciers draining the ice sheet.
An outlet glacier draining the Greenland ice sheet into an ice covered fjord. The individual rough blocks of ice within the smooth surface of the frozen fjord are icebergs that calved off the glacier last summer and are now trapped in the winter fjord ice. (Credit: Rick Forster.)
Once at the research site, our team, including the pilot and flight engineer, quickly unloaded the cargo from the helicopter. The heaviest gear could be left closer to the helicopter, while the lighter pieces needed to be dragged farther away and held down by Ludo and Clem to keep them from being blown away from the winds generated by the helicopter taking off. The ice sheet surface was smooth and soft with knee-deep powder, great for skiing but not so good for moving cargo and setting up camp.
Clem, Ludo, and the science and camp cargo waiting for the helicopter to take off. (Credit: Rick Forster.)
Clem and Ludo will spend the next week and half gathering additional data on the Greenland aquifer from a variety of ice penetrating radar systems and installing an automated weather station for our colleagues at Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht.