Closing Time

August 31, 2009

Through Ed Stockard’s Viewfinder

Ed sent pictures of the seasonal close-out in Kangerlussuaq.

Silver Williams (left) catches up with Torre Stockard. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway at the remote site.

A smiling Silver Williams catches up with Torre Stockard at the Kanger airport. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway and kept the remote site operational for the ANG.

This is why we call them the workhorse of the NSF's polar programs. A C-130 disgorges a Spryte used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

A C-130 disgorges a Spryte driven by Drew Abbott. The vehicle is used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US.  "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US. "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

To celebrate the end of the season, CPS hosts a barbeque on the banks of Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (Dartmouth) andJack Dibb and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (UNH) and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

The last flight of the 2009 science season departed Greenland in the early morning of August 30.  But we’re not quite done:  Mark Begnaud and Ed Stockard remain behind, as they do each year, for the final buttoning up. They have about  two weeks to go of checking and inventorying field and communications equipment, closing buildings, winterizing vehicles, cleaning out our offices in the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support building–“sorting, organizing, fixing…always fixing the old trucks, drying, stacking, throwing away, sighing, sending, receiving, sleeping in on a Sunday (finally), cleaning, counting, stuffing, and so on,” Ed explains.

Ed will depart on September 11 when the Air National Guard returns to Greenland to position the Greenland Inland Traverse project team at Thule Air Base. Mark will remain for a few more days before returning to the US via Denmark on a commercial flight.

“I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home.

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  (Semisonic, Closing Time)


Ice, Ice, Baby!

August 28, 2009

Over a mile of ice core taken at the NEEM camp, which sets a new drilling record.

Cores taken from deep in the ice sheet are under enormous pressure. When brought to the surface where pressure is much less, they can shatter. To avoid this, deep ice cores are stored in a buffer to 'relax' before they are moved. NEEM cores may rest in the buffer for up to a year before being moved. Photo: Sune Olander Rasmussen. NEEM ice core drilling project, www.neem.ku.dk.

Cores taken from deep in the ice sheet are under enormous pressure. When brought to the surface where pressure is lower, they can shatter. To avoid this, deep ice cores are stored in a buffer to 'relax' before they are moved. NEEM cores may rest in the buffer for up to a year. Photo: Sune Olander Rasmussen. NEEM ice core drilling project, http://www.neem.ku.dk.

Congratulations to chief scientist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (University of Copenhagen) and the international NEEM team on a dream season!

Read the National Science Foundation press release.


Transitions

August 28, 2009
A perfect late summer day in northern Alaska.

A perfect late summer day in northern Alaska.

After a recent week of cold, wet weather during which Polar Field Services staff at Toolik Field Station, Alaska, attended annual meetings and helped the CPS construction crew wrap up maintenance projects, the sun broke through. The hard-working staff took a well-deserved hike to Galbraith Lake, a 10-mile drive from camp. Walking up a drainage channel, they captured the following shots of the northern Brooks Range and the changing colors. Summer’s not quite over, but with the field and construction seasons winding down, change is yet again in the air. All photos by Stan Wisneski, Polar Field Services Alaska Operations Manager.

Polar Field Service staffers Jason Neely, Annalisa Neely, Zach Flowers, and Larry Gullingsrud can't figure out which way is up.

CPS construction staffers Jason Neely, Annalisa Neely, Zach Flowers, and Larry Gullingsrud point out . . . the best view?

The sun may be shining bright, but the reddening tundra betrays the seasonal change that lurks around the corner.

The sun may be shining bright, but the reddening tundra betrays the seasonal change that lurks around the corner.

Refreshing streams make great swimming holes for brave, brave people.

Refreshing streams make great swimming holes for brave, brave people.


Their Three Sons

August 27, 2009
Welcome Owen Pagenkopp!
Owen Pagenkopp was born August 2. He weighed 9 lbs, 15 oz at birth, which is why we like to call him The Biscuit.

Introducing Owen Pagenkopp, 9 lbs, 15 oz at birth. Some of us like to call him The Biscuit.

The latest member of the Polar Field Services 2.0 club came into the world looking like a lineman. We may be overstating a bit, but at 22 inches and almost 10 pounds, baby Owen probably skipped right over the newborn clothes.

New mom  Angela reports that her youngest is a sweet baby, content to be held–and (no surprise!) a “chowhound.”  He gained half a pound in three days.  Clearly the boy likes his groceries.

The youngest of three, it’s just as well that he’s big–no doubt he’ll want to keep up with his two older brothers.

Angela's boys: Ethan (5), husband Brett, and Tyler (2).

"I've been trying without success to get all three boys to sit down and cooperate for a picture," Angela writes. "Maybe when they're 20." Ethan (5), husband Brett, and Tyler (2) pause for a second to pose with Owen.

Congratulations to Angela and Brett (and Ethan and Tyler) on drafting the season’s most promising new player!

Owen 111


Home Sweet Summit

August 26, 2009
Summer’s science and construction efforts complete, a small crew settles in to caretaker mode up on the world’s roof
Summit Station's Big House. Photo: Bill McCormick

Summit Station's Big House. Photo: Bill McCormick

By the time the last of the Air National Guard’s LC-130s glides down the long skiway at Summit Station and climbs into the sky, signaling the end of the summer season, the tiny group left behind must feel some relief. They’ve spent several weeks accumulating tasking from a multitude of colleagues while assisting with end-of-season resupply and close-out activities—the usual August bustle and hum.

As they wave that last plane off, the CPS crew turns to a station suddenly transformed from a summer camp into their winter home. With no planes in or out for several months, the five will have the place to themselves as the sun spends more and more time below the horizon (and the mercury* drops as well). They will focus on buttoning the place down for the dark season, conducting maintenance on well-used equipment and gear before putting it to bed on the cargo berm or in the storage warehouse, sorting inventory, and closing summer buildings. At the same time, two technical staff will monitor, troubleshoot, maintain and report on a host of year-round experiments for scientists “back in the world.”
SummitPhaseI

Party of five? Summit’s phase one winter crew arrives at the station. Pictured: Brad Whelchel, Sandra Liu (black hat barely visible between Brad and Andy), Andy Clarke, Katie Koster. Not pictured: Johan Booth.

Prior to closing, the crew at Summit wrapped up an ambitious construction season: they relocated the Green House and berthing module, installed a new, insulated garage with new mechanical systems and floor, upgraded electric voltage from 208 to 480 and installed a new fuel tank in the shop.

The structural relocation and upgrades are part of an integrated, large-scope project that aims to make Summit Station more efficient to both maintain and for conducting research, said Jay Burnside, construction manager for Polar Field Services (part of the CPS team).

The new garage is large enough to provide a scientific balloon-launching facility and space for other science activities, accommodate the largest heavy equipment, house the power plant, and provide adequate storage.  It will also serve as Summit Station’s central power production and maintenance area.

Burnside raved about the crew’s hard work and said the construction caused “no unexpected conflict.”

“In general, having people up there working construction is an innate conflict with the science work,” he said. “But we worked closely with the scientists to minimize the impact.”

Summit Station: new and improved. Photo Jay Burnside

The new and improved Summit Station. The new garage stands behind the Green House/Berthing module, left center, where the winter staff will sleep. The old garage is at center right. Photo: Jay Burnside

*Mercury freezes at about -40 degrees, at which point we have to measure the cold via alcohol, platinum resistor, or other solid-state thermometers. Clearly at that point we know it’s cold.


Into the White, Blue Yonder

August 25, 2009

Crews test sled configurations and towing capability for Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) last spring before the opening of Summit Station. Pending funding from the National Science Foundation, a summer 2010 inland traverse will travel from Thule to Summit Station. Photo Jay Burnside

Crews test sled configurations and towing capability for Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) last spring before the opening of Summit Station. Pending funding from the National Science Foundation, a summer 2010 inland traverse will travel from Thule to Summit Station. Photo: Jay Burnside

Later this month, after scientists wrap up their field work and a skeleton crew prepares for a Greenland winter, a small staff of Polar Field Services workers will test a caravan of tractors and sleds as part of the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT). The traverse follows a route established in 2008 from Thule Air Base to Summit Station.

The crew will base from Thule and will make instrumental changes to sleds designed to be towed over the ice by large tractors in order to improve mobility and efficiency. A successful traverse was completed in 2008, but it was hampered by slow forward movement and unanticipated delays due to equipment sinking into the snow, said Jay Burnside, PFS construction manager.

“We think the problem lies in the thermal properties of the snow-sled interface,” said Burnside. “There is too much surface area, which prevents the formation of a thin layer of water between the sleds and the ice, which makes transportation easier. The strength of the snow in Greenland prevents us from developing enough heat to create that slippery layer. The snow is weaker in Greenland (compared to Antarctica, where there have been successful overland traverses), so you get more contact area, less ground pressure and no heat.”

At least that’s the theory. Burnside and his team will spend several weeks studying the temperature phenomenon and making other changes to the sleds to improve mobility. Specifically they will insulate the fuel bladders in the sleds to avoid “3,000, 000 gallons of cold fuel sucking up the heat.”

The team plans to launch a second traverse in summer 2010 (pending National Science Foundation funding) to deliver a Case tractor to Summit Station. Successfully establishing an overland traverse would create transportation alternatives for supply delivery to research stations in Greenland. Currently, all supplies, including fuel, materials, food, and personnel, arrive via airplanes; instituting a traverse could significantly reduce emissions, prove to be more cost-effective, and open up remote areas for more research.


Fair Weather

August 24, 2009

There are certain guarantees with each summer field season in Greenland: 24-hour light and mosquitoes. The rest, particularly the weather, is unpredictable. Storms can ravage the ice, darkening the sky and invading field camps with wind and worse. And then there can be summers like the one that’s wrapping up.

Kangarlussuaq, July 12, 2009. What's missing? Rain, sleet, and clouds. Photo courtesy Mark Begnaud

Kangerlussuaq, July 12, 2009. What's missing? Rain, sleet, and clouds. Photo courtesy Mark Begnaud

March was very cool, and winter was slow to release its grip,” says Polar Field Service’s Greenland Operations Manager, Mark Begnaud. “It didn’t warm up until June, but once it got warm, it stayed warm for a long time.” As in 23 degrees Celsius warm—downright balmy for the Arctic.

On average, coastal temperatures in June average between one and eight degrees Celsius, according to weather data from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Further north and inland, Thule temperatures range minus one and five degrees Celsius. July and August typically average between three and eleven degrees Celsius, and two to eight degrees Celsius in Thule. In Kangerlussuaq, where Begnaud helms the logistics support for the National Science Foundation’s arctic research program, “we got an extended bit of nice weather with no rain.” Wild blueberries that generally peak mid- to late-August have shriveled in the constant sun, he said.

So what’s behind the warm weather?  Data shows that to date, summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere in 2009 are among the warmest on record. According to Dr. John Christy, director of the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s Earth System Science Center, the global average temperature jumped 0.41 degrees Celsius from June to July, due in part to an El Nino Pacific Ocean warming event.

In Greenland, the fair weather “really benefits science,” says Begnaud. “When the field researchers are camping in a tent and it is cold and clammy it’s not fun. When the weather’s nice, the flights run on schedule, and the logistics are easier.”

Fair weather keeps the Summit staff (and the scientists they support) happy. Photo courtesy Mark Begnaud.

Fair weather keeps the Summit staff (and the scientists they support) happy. Photo courtesy Mark Begnaud.