Keep on TREC-ing

May 19, 2010
By Marcy Davis

Pictured outside the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the 2010 PolarTREC teachers and alumni (left to right), Jeff Peneston (Icebreaker Oden-2008), Jim Pottinger, Josh Dugat, Cheryl Forster, Chantelle Rose, Mike Lampert, Keri Rodgers, Karl Horeis, Tina Sander, Michele Cross (McMurdo Station-2009), Craig Beals (Summit-2008), Anne Marie Wotkyns, Bill Schmoker, Lesley Urasky, and Claude Larson. Unless otherwise noted, photos by Kristin Timm, Arctic Consortium of the United States, for PolarTREC

It’s that time of year again! Janet Warburton and Kristin Timm of the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) are preparing K-12 educators from across the United States for upcoming field experiences in the Arctic and Antarctic.  Twelve teachers who spent a week in Fairbanks, Alaska, in April for the PolarTREC Orientation and ShareFair, an intensive week-long introduction to the professional development experience.

PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), now in its fourth year (and with a recent NSF funding renewal through December of 2013), is a professional development program for K-12 educators focused on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Through teacher-researcher collaborations and hands-on field experiences, teachers become an essential bridge between cutting-edge polar science and the public. By working closely with selected PolarTREC research teams through application review and teacher interviews, researchers and teachers are matched across a wide range of scientific disciplines to ensure that teachers’ interests are aligned with science project goals. After much training and preparation, teachers spend 2-6 weeks in the field with their research team. During their time out, teachers share their experiences through webinars, multimedia journals, and bulletin boards on PolarTREC’s interactive Web site.

Ann Harding and Rachael Orben prepare to take blood samples of captured birds, Kap Hoegh, Greenland. Photo by Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly (PolarTREC 2007), Courtesy of ARCUS

PolarTREC’s mission includes increasing teachers’ knowledge of polar science along with their ability to teach pertinent science concepts. The program allows teachers to improve their instruction by participating in a new and exciting research experience, exposing them to new ideas and incorporating technology both in and out of the field. Teachers also develop new curricula, which is disseminated through the PolarTREC site. PolarTREC wants their teachers to inspire students to become more aware of the Polar Regions and explore opportunities to further their education and explore occupations in STEM areas.

During the PolarTREC orientation teachers learned background science content, how to communicate successfully from the field, and how to develop polar science education and outreach plans and ideas. Hands-on breakout sessions include digital photography, journaling methods, using educational technologies, and bringing science into the classroom. PolarTREC teacher and research alumni as well as representatives from CH2M HILL Polar Services (CPS) were also on hand in-person and virtually to share experiences and address teacher questions and expectations.

Following a presentation from Roy Stehle of SRI International (part of CPS), teacher Anne Marie Wotkyns practiced using the satellite phone by calling home from the Westmark Hotel parking lot. Wotkyns will work with scientists on the Icebreaker Oden in November.

PolarTREC Alumni, Craig Beals (Summit-2008), offers advice to the new group of teachers. Three PolarTREC alumni were on hand during orientation to share information and lessons learned about their field experience, maintaining collaborations with the research team, and taking PolarTREC back to the classroom.

Matt Irinaga of Polar Field Services (part of CPS) explains the science of cold weather dressing: layer, layer, layer! Photo: Robbie Score

We’ll be checking in on PolarTREC teachers during their field experiences – stay tuned! 

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GrIT: On to Summit

May 18, 2010
 All photos: Robin Davies

The GrIT team greets Zoe Courville at NEEM.

After about three weeks and 400 miles—many of which were wind-blown and snowy on the soft, roadless route toward Summit—the Greenland Inland Traverse team (GrIT) rolled into the international deep drilling camp NEEM last Thursday, 12 May. 

GoNorth! Too  

The Polar Husky superstars of GoNorth! arrived on the 12th as well, in time for project members with teaching and other commitments to meet the flight scheduled for the 13th. Of course that flight was delayed a day due to weather on the ice cap, but eventually the plane came, and personnel were appropriately shuffled.  

The GoNorth! Polar Husky super stars run into NEEM camp.

Exit Jim Lever, Enter Zoe Courville

The GrIT team welcomed Zoe Courville of CRREL on Saturday. We hear the mood was festive at NEEM camp that evening, as many camp personnel were newly arrived on the day’s ANG flight, as well.  The NEEM blog site notes that “Everybody had a fine evening, and a lot of people joined in the mid-night dance, featuring the Danish group “Sweet hearts.” 

Back to work on Sunday: The GrIT team conducted maintenance on traverse vehicles, delivered 1500 gallons of fuel to NEEM, and reconfigured the loads, shifting another1500 gallons of fuel to the Tucker’s fuel bladder. Net load reduction for the Case: 21,600 pounds. “The Durabase (a semi-flexible plastic bed) is now on High-Molecular-Weight sleds to see if the sleds reduce the drag,” project manager Allen Cornelison noted. 

The team headed out for Summit on Sunday, another ~430 miles ahead.  On Monday “the Case was able to grab 7th gear,” a first, wrote Cornelison.  Still, “it was unable to go any faster probably because it was making 14-inch ruts.”  Despite soft snow conditions, the team advanced 45 miles.  

The LC-130 airplane (right) blows off the runway at NEEM. Skiway conditions were soft due to warm temperatures and wind storms. The "Iconic NEEM Dome" (the camp's main building) is seen just left of center.

More Sled Mobility Tests

The qualities of Greenland’s snow surface and sled mobility are clear foci of the GrIT’s experimental component. Before departing on the traverse, CRREL personnel at Thule fitted the Durabase sled with sensors that collected data at the snow/sled interface; when he returns to CRREL, Lever will analyze these data in hopes they shed light on how to make the interface more slippery. 

Back at Thule earlier this spring, Jim Lever prepared the HMV sleds for mobility experiments. Here, the sled is outfitted with heaters. The sensors to collect data on temperature and mobility can be seen along the edges. A second sled was tested using enhanced passive (solar) warming methods.

Jim Lever (right) changes batteries powering a datalogger collecting information on the mobility of the HMV sled with passive warming. The brown fuel bladder is covered with a radiation-absorbing black material. In the background, the second HMV carries a fuel bladder without the black material, for comparison. Allan Delaney (left) and 'Swing Boss' observe.

In addition, after departing the GrIT, Lever flew to Summit Station, where he is conducting mobility tests on a raft purchased specifically for traverse development.  Jim’s findings may be applied to improving bipolar mobility—for GrIT and its southern cousin, “SPoT” (the South Pole Traverse). 

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

GoNorth!+GrIT=GrITGo’N!

May 10, 2010
Two Become One
All Photos: Robin Davies

Some gorgeous and well-mannered Polar Huskies wait for the humans to transfer the GoNorth! load to GrIT.

Adapt or fail: this may be the first rule of successful polar exploration, as countless stories from the age of the great adventurers (and from our own research clients) will attest. Over the weekend, while many of us celebrated Mother’s Day, there was a marriage of sorts on the Greenland ice sheet. The two traverse teams we’ve been following—GoNorth!’s Polar Husky-powered education effort, and GrIT’s tractor-towed operational effort—combined forces to get everyone back on schedule after last week’s stormy weather delayed progress.  

Mille Porsild, dog handler-in-chief, settles the canine team atop some GrIT cargo totes. Mille prefers to ride up on the totes with her pack, though there's room for her in the warm camping wannigan.

NEEM is the North Eemian drilling camp, an international research collaboration whose main goal is to harvest an ice core (for climate studies) that reaches all the way through the ice sheet. While the University of Copenhagen has overall management of NEEM and operates the camp, the National Science Foundation supports U.S. researchers (U Colorado’s Jim White leads this effort) and provides the heavy air lift as well. Air National Guard LC-130 planes fly between Kangerlussuaq and NEEM every ten days to two weeks—weather permitting, of course.  

So if the three miss this flight, they could be auxiliary NEEM staff for two weeks waiting for the next flight—an unhappy possibility given teaching and research commitments. (Some of us would pay good money to be stranded at the storied NEEM camp for a week or so with the likes of Danish polar research legends like Dorthe Dahl-Jensen and JP Steffensen, but that’s a tale for another post.)  

“With the loads reconfigured (once they passed through the crevassed zone with its steep inclines), the GrIT is moving forward at a decent clip. The goal is to make at least 40 miles per day,” Allen explained. “Over the past few days, they have been achieving their goal even with some soft snow.”  

Settled down and ready to make tracks.

While GrIT machines can continue plowing ahead in most storm conditions, the GoNorth! dogs, though incredibly strong and courageous, must at some point hunker down and wait for the worst weather to clear–they are not made of metal. The risk that the GoNorth! team might be delayed again by a good blow was considered too great, and so all have joined the GrIT traverse. That’s an additional 23 dogs, four people, sleds and gear.  

In short, a parade.  

  

“With firm snow, the Case has been able to hold 6th gear with little slippage,” Cornelison continued. “Ruts are between four and six inches. The Tucker has been holding second gear and keeping up with the Case though towing multiple sleds and the 3,000-gallon fuel bladder, which they have been fueling from. I believe that the Tucker load is about 120 feet long now.”  

“The weather has been cooperating nicely with unlimited visibility, sunny skies, light winds and temperatures between -4 and +10F.”  

“The teams camped Sunday night 110 miles from NEEM. They should arrive at NEEM mid-day on the 12th.”   

 
 
 
 

Robin writes, "The Case has a Greenlandic name, Qimuttuuaraq. It's a name that's often given to a small dog that pulls hard for its weight. A rough translation would be 'Small dog with big heart'." We think the same could be said of all souls on the traverse, four- and two-legged alike.

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

 


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


Summit Readies for Spring Research

May 4, 2010

This LC-130, fitted with special 8-bladed propellers, delivered CH2M HILL Polar Services staff to Summit Station last week. Photo: Mary McLane

They are our swallows at San Capistrano, the newly arrived CPS summer staff.  Harbingers of the research season to come, they flock to Summit Station just ahead of the first group of scientists, to assist with final preparations. And they arrived last week during a warm spell.

A warm spell that softened Summit’s long skiway enough to bog an LC-130, Skier 92, on 28 April. After repeated unsuccessful passes down the strip, the New York Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing’s flight crew bunked at the station, along with the phase three winter staff and others who had been trying to depart on the outbound.

Summit staffer Marie McLane tries out the co-pilot seat in Skier 92. LC-130s rarely linger on snow, so this chance to explore the cockpit at Summit's front door couldn't be ignored. Photo: Sonja Wolter

CPS staff worked the heavy machines up and down the skiway all night to prepare for the next round on Thursday.

The Air National Guard sent the big guns–or propellers–on Thursday: Skier 93, fitted with special 8-bladed propellers.  Skier 92 offloaded all of its passengers and most of its cargo, and after five passes, it finally was able to lift off for Kangerlussuaq.  Skier 93 soon followed, loaded with passengers and cargo from the original plane, after only two passes down the skiway. “The eight bladed prop makes an amazing difference,” wrote station manager Ken Jessen.

Read about the NP2000 8-bladed propellers in this field notes blog post.

With planes off the skiway,  Summit staff continued preparing the station for spring researchers. Noted polar explorer (University of Colorado) Koni Steffen will stop in during his Twin-Otter-supported maintanence visit to the automated weather station at Summit.

All smiles: Camp Manager Ken Jessen, after an afternoon spent shoveling out the Summit fuel bladders. Photo: Katrine Gorham


GrIT: On the Road Again

April 30, 2010
All photos: Robin Davies

Willow Fitzgerald and the Swing Boss depart in the Case Quadtrac.

The Greenland Inland Traverse, or GrIT, departed Thule Air Base Monday, 26 May, a few hours behind the GoNorth! adventure learning group.  The traverse team rolled past the transition, and then spent the first of many nights camped on the ice.

Leaving the transition, Jim Lever walks alongside the durabase sled to check mobility and load.

The first camp.

All week GrIT has been climbing on to the ice sheet. This is a slow and careful process in part because the way is fraught with crevasses, and also because the first 6o miles involves rolling terrain with an elevation gain of about 4,000 feet, requiring the GrIT to shuttle partial loads so as not to overtax the heavy equipment. In addition to shuttling the infrastructure up the hill, the Tucker rolls ahead of the big Case Quadtrac, repeating the ground penetrating radar survey completed a few weeks ago. 

Weather departing Thule was fine, with a light breeze and blue skies, and it held for another day or so. “The team made good mileage Wednesday for a total of 23 miles and waypoint B9,” wrote GrIT project manager Allen Cornelison. “The Swing Boss feels that the mainly downhill aspect of the route today helped them move faster.” 

Just after the first waypoint, GrIT encounters a sharp decent. The Tucker is attached to the sleds with a long cable to restrain them during the decent.

Still, on Wednesday, fog rolled in.

Thursday morning, the team woke to blowing snow as a forecasted storm settled over the area. Among other efforts, the Tucker  shuttled ahead of GrIT  to “lay down some tracks,” Allen said, for the GoNorth! Polar Huskies. The GrIT’s effort was an important service to GoNorth!, as this area of the trail is very “complicated,” Allen wrote.  “The traverse is “threading the needle” through the various parallel crevasses along the route.”

Jim Lever heads off to check the fuel bladders and download data from temperature sensors on the sleds (part of the sled mobility investigation).

If GoNorth! was ahead, the two teams may now play a bit of hopscotch. The weather on Thursday was too stormy for the Polar Huskies to proceed, and so GoNorth! humans hunkered down in tents while the dogs curled up with their backs to the wind along the stake chain.
Meanwhile, the GrIT chugged along.  After a little help from the Tucker at the steepest grade along the route, most of the GrIT equipment was moved past GoNorth!’s camp site. The Case and the Tucker then shuttled back to get the long durabase sled, pulling it together up the steep grade, and stopping just shy of the GoNorth! camp.

The GoNorth! camp. To the far left, the tent is drifting in.

Erecting a tent is an adventure when the wind gets to howling!

What's it gonna take? Teamwork.

The GrIT team then made camp—check out Robin’s photos!—to rest up for today’s haul, which promised to be a doozy. Stay tuned.

Personnel on the GrIT include a Swing Boss; Jim Lever, CRREL engineer and mobility expert; Robin Davies and Willow Fitzgerald, GrIT mechanics/operators; . Allan Delaney, a ground-penetrating radar expert recently retired from CRREL, will accompany the team through the transition and then fly in a helicopter back to Thule before heading home.

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


The Right Staff

April 27, 2010

Summer crew at Summit 

Summer's coming to Summit Station. Photo: Brad Stefano

What iconic movie image does the above picture conjure?  The astronaut movie from the 1980’s–The Right Stuff–comes to mind, but a check of the official Web site  doesn’t reveal the image fluttering at the periphery. First one to name it: a $15.00 iTunes card is yours! (Void where prohibited, of course.) Send emails to yours truly

Anyway.  The Summit Station Phase III winter team—one of the most congenial ever to keep the lights on and the data flowing at Summit—welcomed 24 CPS staff to the station last Saturday (24 April), after everyone spent several days waiting out the Eyjafjallajokull ash plume. The group is now engaged at warp speed in turnover and camp opening activities.  Phase III winter personnel are scheduled to leave Summit tomorrow, along with several additional personnel who guide and support transition activities. 

Phase III staffers Lucas Nordby, Christina Hammock, and Sonja Wolter take a well-deserved break from setting up "Tent City," Summit's summer living quarters for visitors. Photo: Ken Keenan

The new crew includes two fresh key members: Katrine Gorham, who assumes the helm for Summit research support from Sandy Starkweather; and Tracy Sheely, who will head the operational efforts—a job long held by Kathy Young. These two will work with the Science Coordination Office and an on-site Chief Scientist to maintain the exquisite choreography needed to conduct atmospheric and snow chemistry experiments and to collect baseline climate data at a remote outpost where water has to be made from snow and power is considered life support. 

From left: Glen Helkenn, Ben Toth and Shannon Coykendall arrive at Summit. Photo: Brad Stefano

Also on the crew: newlyweds Ben Toth and Shannon Coykendall. Congratulations to the happy couple, who illustrate that there is no world more filled with connections or funny coincidences than that of polar research support. Per Karla College: “I have a good friend here in Crested Butte named Katie who worked in Denali with Shannon. Shannon married Ben who was my friend Jason’s roommate in McMurdo and I know Ben from Antarctica.  So . . . I’ve never met Shannon but I know her husband and a long time friend of hers, who don’t know each other.” Got all that?