Weather conditions at Thule Air Base kept GoNorth! leaders Aaron Doering and Mille Porsild inside today. The base commander declared a “Storm Condition Delta” during the day for sustained winds above 50 knots and visibility less than 100 yards. During these conditions, all personnel are confined to their quarters, an untimely development for the pair who wished to visit their Polar Husky dogs. The “superstar” canines who arrived at the air base for an ice-sheet trek to Summit Station doubtless hunkered down and curled up across town to wait out the storm.
The dogs and humans have been exploring the Arctic by sled for years. They’ve visited Alaska, Russia, Finland, Norway, Scandinavia, Canada and now Greenland. The dogs are bred for the adventure, and the people seek to research the impacts of climate change and report back in real time. The team visits communities as they travel the Arctic, presenting their “What’s Climate Change to You?” program—the heart of the Aaron Doering / University of Minnesota-led National Science Foundation grant—at local schools. When able, they overnight in these communities, sleeping in the school gym or other host shelters. This year, the need to avoid cross-breeding meant the Polar Huskies stayed home for the community visits; these were completed instead by guest-starring Greenlandic dog teams.
In addition to local outreach, the team takes samples and makes observations for a variety of science experiments, including an investigation of traditional ecological knowledge, and NSF-funded projects examining black carbon in snow and a prototype network for measuring winter precipitation. Weekly, the team participates in live chats and updates the GoNorth! Web site with trail reports and photos. Classrooms across the US and all over the world participate in these live events and use the curriculum posted to the GoNorth! Web site to learn about the host country, the changing Arctic, and much more.
Soon the GoNorth! team will run up to Summit Station. They’ll follow the Greenland Inland Traverse team for the first 60 or so miles through the crevassed ice of the transition. The GrIT will carry thousands of pounds of dog food to resupply the GoNorth! four-leggers.
But no one’s going anywhere until the weather improves. Thule’s local forecast suggests it could be a little while before the Polar Huskies get in the harness.