GrIT: Beyond Crevassed Zone, Into a Storm

May 4, 2010

All Photos: Robin Davies

The Swing Boss checks wind speed before three GrIT members return to Thule.

The Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) team halted progress toward Summit Station on Monday “because of a rather large storm that is affecting the ice cap and Thule,” GrIT project manager Allen Cornelison reported. “The storm has also prevented the helicopter from retrieving Allan Delaney.”

Delaney is the ground-penetrating radar expert who led the team through the crevassed zone. His job now done, he was to fly back to Thule on Monday to begin his journey home. But with the storm forecast to last into Thursday and beyond (and limited flights out of Thule), the team formed Plan B.

“Robin Davies, Willow Fitzgerald and Allan Delaney took the Tucker down to Thule today,” Allen Cornelison reported on Monday.

“Even though the visibility was not great for the 70 miles down the ice cap, it was worse once the team got to the transition. Robin said at times the visibility was so poor along the road from the transition to Thule, they were only able to drive at 2 mph.” That’s when 15 miles can be an excruciating distance.

The three used new Garmin 695 Global Positioning Systems units to Hansel-and-Gretel their way back to Thule:  the GPS instruments (designed for aircraft operations) have been laying down coordinates as GrIT travels inland, and the three in the Tucker found their way back to Thule by closely following the “breadcrumb” path recorded by the software. Cool!

Meanwhile, CRREL’s Jim Lever and the Swing Boss took shelter in their tents at the far edge of the crevassed zone at position B11D. “GoNorth is about a mile past B11C and we would assume hunkered down as well,” Cornelison wrote. “Brad commented that the snow is coming down quite hard but the wannigan (the large camping box and warm-up shelter) is holding up well and they are cozy in their tents.” It may be pouring snow, but the storm brings relatively warm weather—about +20 degrees F.

The GoNorth! dogs are actually warmer when they're drifted in, as they're protected from the wind.

With a break in the weather, the GrIT team will shuffle the traverse cargo load. “Jim commented that the load cells show that the Case and Tucker should be able to discontinue shuttling loads and begin hauling one way,” Cornelison said.

According to the Swing Boss, snow conditions are improving as the team moves inland. And harder snow means the big machine should be able to pull a heavier load.

“Robin and Willow will attempt to return to camp Tuesday and all will continue to move forward,” Cornelison’s report concluded. ‘This is of course if they can see enough to move forward.”

The Greenland Inland Traverse is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). CH2M HILL Polar Services and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories are working together with the NSF to develop the traverse infrastructure and route. The 2010 spring traverse has several foci: find a safe overland route to Summit Station to help reduce logistical costs and environmental impacts of conducting research there; provide a research platform for scientists conducting field work in Greenland; optimize mobility by focusing on the sled/snow interface.  For more field notes coverage of GrIT, click here

GrIT contact:
Allen Cornelison, Polar Field Services, CH2M HILL Polar Services
GrIT Project Manager

Allen at polarfield.com


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