What Mile 99 Looks Like

March 31, 2010

If You’re Christie Haupert, that is

Christie Haupert's self portrait at the end of the White Mountains 100 race.

Christie made it start-to-finish in a bit over 29 hours. Her note about the finish seems typically Christie, focusing on the “real racers” who made it look like art as opposed to her own fine accomplishment. (View them and some amazing photos of the race course on the WM100 Web site.)

"Frosty after skiing 20 miles alone in the dark at -10 to -20F temps," Christy explained. "This is coming into checkpoint #4 at 6:30a.m." Photo: John Peterson

Here’s what else she said:

“The leg from mile 60-80 was by far the toughest for most of the competitors as it was during the night and cold. A couple people suffered minor frostbite (not me though). This section was pretty challenging–I actually hallucinated and completely lost my appetite preventing me from eating any solid food, but oddly enough I struggled the most the last three miles. I just didn’t want to ski anymore and most of it was uphill. I kept taking my skis off and trying to walk, then putting them back on again. . . when all I wanted was to just be there already.”

A few seconds after reaching the finish line 29 hours and 10 minutes after starting. Photo: Carlene Van Tol

After a good day of sleep, Christie returned to the PFS Fairbanks office to finish preparing for Paddy Sullivan’s put-in to his Aggie River tree-line study site (among other tasks). On Monday, she and Paddy departed Fairbanks. Here’s that lazy itinerary: “We will fly into Kotzebue, travel 50 miles by snowmachine to the Agashashok River and spend 3 days digging snow pits.”

Try to keep up.

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GrIT Details: Day Trip

March 30, 2010

 

Wind blows off the ice cap--and delays the departure of the GPR team.

Robin Davies sent a note this morning with some pictures from yesterday’s GrIT efforts near Thule Air Base in Greenland.  Windy conditions, especially at the transition to the ice edge, have been cramping the GrIT team’s plans. But today, the GPR team looking for crevasses and other dangers on the first part of the route are hoping to make a long trip out on the ice sheet, “if the weather holds,” as Robin wrote.

A couple of miles from Thule, ground drifting obscures the road to the transition. Terminal moraines (rocky deposits showing the maximum advance of a glacier) are barely visible at the ice edge.

GrIT traverse lead Brad Johnson uses the Case Quadtrac to push snow off the road.

Kevin Emery (GrIT medic/mountaineer) uses the Tucker to groom the surface. The ramp (built long ago to ease access to the ice sheet) can be seen in the distance at left.

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:
Jay Burnside, Polar Field Services, CH2M HILL Polar Services
Construction/Operations manager

Jay at polarfield.com


Around Thule

March 30, 2010

Hunters, festivals, and lots of dogs

A rare and special breed, the Greenlandic dog. All photos: Robin Davies

Still waiting for conditions to improve up on the transition to the ice sheet, the GrIT team spent another day around Thule on Sunday. Fortunately, it’s a lively place to hang out these days, as GrIT project manager Allen Cornelison wrote in an email:

A few days ago some Greenlandic hunters and families arrived by dog sled from Qaanaaq to the north and Savigsivik to the south. It took them four days to get here. Along the way they hunted polar bear and muskoxen. We hear that over at Dundas Village, there are heads and skins from the hunt. I sure wish a polar bear would wander by here for us to view.

A hunter takes his dog team for a spin out on the sea ice with Saunders Island in the background.

There are a dozen or more dog teams gathered about the sea ice here near the base. They are here for the First Light Festival which has been celebrated in Thule for years. Then, next Saturday is Armed Forces Day.  Dog sled races will be held on the sea ice. One can actually enter a drawing to ride along in one of the hunter’s sleds during a race. Prizes will be given away. I am not sure what all the prizes are, but one is a rifle.

This is last light: a sunset view of the Thule heavy shop. But the point is, look at that light!

I see some new faces around town–hunters and some Greenlandic women and children.  It is wonderful to see kids around.

About the dogs

The Greenlandic sled dogs are called Eskimo dogs and they are beautiful.  Some of the dog’s guard hairs and hackles are like none I have ever seen. The hairs are long, wavy and multicolored. Some dogs have these long guard hairs or hackles covering almost their entire body. The dogs seem less excitable than the Alaska huskies which I am used to and they seem more socialized around humans. While we were alone with the dogs, they barely took notice of us. When a hunter came walking over from the village (about two miles away) the dogs perked up and took notice of him even when he was as far out as 100 yards.

Robin's approach seems of little concern to these composed Greenlandic dogs.

The Greenlandic government has recognized that the Eskimo dog breed is rare outside of Greenland.  Because the Greenlandic government does not want their dog line to have outside influence, they rarely permit foreign dogs entry to Thule.

About Dundas Village

Robin took this photo from the Thule jetty with a telephotographic lens.

People began living at Dundas over 900 years ago. The Greenlandic name is actually “Uummannaq.”  In about 1910 a mission and a trading post were established.  Danes lived in the framed and painted houses and the old framed houses that used sod for insulation were for the indigenous people, the Inuit. These sod homes were a more modern version of the sod home prior to dimensional lumber and nail availability. You can see the small (and long) entrance just like an igloo or an ancient sod home.

Remains of a sod house, showing the long, low entrance. Robin took this shot on a summer visit a few years ago.

In the 1950’s when Thule Air Base was being built, the Danish government moved the people living in the village north to Qaanaaq and other established villages.

Now, Uummannaq is mostly abandoned. The Danish government has given the village back to the Greenland government but no one person owns the land where the houses sit. Danes and Greenlandic hunters have fixed some of the houses up for use. Currently some of the hunters are staying over there in one of the hunting cabins.

Here is some more information on the area if you are interested. http://www.thuleforum.com/jette/greenl1-5.html

That is all from Thule. I’ve gotta go sign up for a dog sled ride.–Allen Cornelison


GrIT Details: More Weather

March 29, 2010

Weather can be a big blowing deal in Greenland. Photo: Robin Davies

Weather is the Joe Biden of field work in the polar regions:  you never know what it’s going to do (or say, in Mr. Biden’s case). Regardless of how we plan and rehearse, if nature decides to “let-‘er-rip,” we have to stand by and watch it blow, and begin again when the storm passes. 

Though hoping to light out for the ice sheet ahead of a gathering storm, the Greenland Inland Traverse team spent the weekend at Thule Air Base, waiting out another mighty blow. 

“Unfortunately it’s been another day in town for all of us,” Robin Davies wrote on Saturday. ”Here in Thule the weather has been quite reasonable but up at the transition the clouds are down and it’s blowing hard. We are thinking that the first break in the weather, the GPR team will head out for one more long day trip whilst the others get the wannigan, cargo and fuel sleds sorted and hooked up for us so that, weather permitting, we can leave the following day.” 

This is very different than last Sunday, when weather was so relatively fair the team took a few hours off and visited the old village near the air base. 

Jen Mercer, Jim Lever and Kevin Emery check out old Inuit timber and sod huts at Thule village near the air base. Photo: Robin Davies

But that’s the way it goes. They’ll get out when they can. 

“Keep your fingers crossed for us,” Robin writes.  And restrain from the colorful language if you can.

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:
Jay Burnside, Polar Field Services, CH2M HILL Polar Services
Construction/Operations manager
Jay at polarfield.com

GrIT details: Weather Delay(s)

March 26, 2010

Nice weather. GrIT recovery, October 2008. Photo: Ed Stockard

Poor weather conditions forced the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) team to hunker down at Thule Air Base yesterday, as the transition to the ice sheet was closed due to high winds.

“Yesterday there were hurricane-force winds out at the transition so we could not work out there,” reports GrIT project manager Allen Cornelison in an email. “We all spent the day in town getting more tasking completed.”

If you’re following the GrIT story, you’ll recall that the ground-penetrating radar team of four is raring to get out of town and survey the first 60 miles of the course for crevasses and other hazards before the actual traverse gets under way to Summit Station sometime in mid-April.

With a sun halo painting the sky, the GPR survey team reaches waypoint B-3 on Wednesday, about 15 miles out on the ice sheet. Photo: Robin Davies

When GrIT mechanic/operator Robin Davies took the above photo two days ago, the team was returning to Thule Air Base after surveying and marking hazards on the first 15 miles on the ice route. Had the weather cooperated, the team would have spent yesterday finalizing the travel/camping rig they’ll use on the survey so they could depart on the 10-14 day GPR effort today.

“At this moment, Brad is out plowing the road to make it passable for our vehicles,” Cornelison wrote earlier today. “Everyone is headed out in about 30 minutes to get a fuel bladder full of fuel for the GPR team and the GPR team hopes to get their wannigan shelter set up to leave ASAP. Unfortunately there is another storm coming in tomorrow. So, they may not be able to launch until Sunday or Monday.”

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 route to Summit Station that may reduce logistical and other 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 on GrIT, click here. 


Update: Kaufman’s Coring Trip

March 25, 2010

Cascade Lake, Alaska, during a 2009 coring trip. Photo: Darrell Kaufman

Darrell Kaufman jotted an email last week to report that his team was back from a ten-day excursion to Cordova, Alaska, to collect sediment samples from a group of area lakes. Their field work went well. “We recovered over 350 lb of mud from four different lakes and discovered some really interesting new records of environmental changes,” Kaufman wrote. For more on Kaufman’s work, click here.


GrIT Details: GPR Team at Work

March 24, 2010
By now, the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) team has probably begun inching along the first 60 miles of the GrIT traverse route, scouting safe passage for the tractors and sleds that will embark in mid-April for Summit Station. GrIT mechanic / equipment operator (/photographer) Robin Davies sent photos explaining how the team finds and marks hidden hazards in the tumbly ice that is the transition from land to ice sheet proper. Ride along. 

The ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is seen through the windshield of the Tucker. The instrument uses electromagnetic waves to detect structural changes not obvious from the surface of the ice—crevasses, notably. All photos: Robin Davies

Inside the Tucker: Jennifer Mercer, Allan Delaney (rear) and Robin Davies. Delaney monitors the output from the radar constantly.

Mercer checks satellite images as Delaney monitors the radar output. Experts like Mercer can detect surface disturbances on satellite images, but sometimes a seemingly smooth surface masks hidden crevasses. That's where the GPR really proves its worth.

When Delaney sees a potential crevasse in the radar output, Davies stops the Tucker. Mountaineer/medic Kevin Emery, riding behind the Tucker on a snowmachine, comes forward to inspect the area of interest. Here, Emery profiles the suspected crevasse while lashed to his snowmachine.

After digging through the snow bridge covering the crevasse, Emery determines the fissure is a bit over two feet wide. That's too wide for safe crossing, so Emery marks the spot with black flags and the Tucker prepares to back up and find a safe route. The GPR team will likely engage in these activities scores of times on this advance-scouting traverse, but clearly risk mitigation makes the effort worthwhile.

The Greenland Inland Traverse, a collaboration between the National Science Foundation (NSF), CH2M HILL Polar Services, and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories, is funded by the NSF’s Office of Polar Programs.  The 2010 spring traverse has several foci: find a safe route to Summit Station that may reduce logistical and other 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 on GrIT, click here.