All Photos by Swing Boss!

May 11, 2010

Willow Fitzgerald pulls up at the GrIT camp in the Tucker.

Robin Davies hops out of the Tucker. We can't say who took this photo, but it wasn't Robin.

Flashback to last week, during the storm.  Remember how Robin Davies and Willow Fitzgerald drove Allan Delaney the 70 miles back down to Thule Air Base last week in the Tucker in the storm?  Allan was to be extracted from the traverse via helicopter, but of course weather fouled that plan and so the team reverted to Plan B, an overland return–remember?So Robin and Willow were pinned in Thule overnight as the storm raged on. They managed to avoid a second overnight at the base when they scooted out of town during a momentary break in the weather. Up on the ice sheet, the storm continued, but the two were able to navigate using the Garmen 695 GPS units NSF purchased for moments just like these. 

We don’t have any pictures of this portion of the adventure because Robin forgot to bring his camera with him–an uncharacteristic moment of forgetfulness for the GrIT photographer. But all’s well that ends well, because the Swing Boss was ready with Robin’s camera when the heroes returned. He took all of the pictures in this post. Who is he? Ask the Swing Boss. 

Nice weather. The Tucker arrives at the GrIT camp.

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 hereGrIT contact: 

Allen Cornelison, Polar Field Services, CH2M HILL Polar Services
GrIT project manager
allen at polarfield.com

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

 


Delivering Boardwalk

May 10, 2010

PFSers Larry Gullingsrud and Annelisa Neely deliver boardwalk to Mike Weintraub's tundra plots at Imnavait Creek. Researchers will use the dark material in the background to artificially warm some of the tundra plots. Photo: Jason Neely

University of Toledo’s Mike Weintraub returned to Imnavait Creek near Toolik Field Station last week for the first full season of tundra plot studies supported by his recent NSF grant.  The project is one of a group of new research to be fielded at/near Toolik this year to study changing seasonality in the Arctic (CSAS).  Specifically, Weintraub’s team is looking at how altered timing of seasonal events—earlier spring thaw and later fall freeze, for example—may affect nitrogen cycling in the soil, and how that in turn impacts tundra plant and microbe growth.

Polar Field Services staff returned to Toolik in late April for spring science support and station facilities projects. Among the larger science efforts, Jason Neely’s team placed about 3000 linear feet of boardwalk out on Imnavait Creek tundra manipulation plots for Weintraub’s CSAS soil nutrient experiment.   The boardwalk protects the fragile, slow-growing tundra from the many footsteps of researchers visiting the plots to collect plants, data and/or to manipulate the conditions.  The Weintraub team will continue working on the CSAS project for the length of the summer season at Toolik Field Station, departing in late August.

Weintraub heads an interdisciplinary collaboration composed of four other PIs:  Paddy Sullivan (U Alaska), Josh Schimel (U California), Edward Rastetter (Marine Biological Laboratory), and Heidi Steltzer (Colorado State U).

Researchers will manipulate the timing of seasonally driven processes in tussock tundra ecosystems by advancing the timing of snowmelt with radiation-absorbing fabric placed over the snowpack in the late spring and by using open-top warming chambers in concert with advanced snowmelt. They will follow how seasonally driven plant and soil dynamics are affected by changes in the timing of snowmelt and warming.


GrIT: Circumzenithal Arc

May 7, 2010

Parahelia with circumzenithal arc. Greenland ice sheet, May 6, 2010. Photo: Robin Davies

From Robin’s email:

“I got this shot yesterday afternoon, as we reconfigured the Tucker load (which is why the outhouse is in the frame). As the cloud thinned and the sky got bluer, the sun halo and sun dogs that had been coming and going for some time  suddenly developed a Circumzenithal Arc (the inverted rainbow above the sun), which sent me scrambling for my camera.

“I’ve been trying to get a good shot of one of these ever since I’ve been coming to Greenland and now I’ve got one with an outhouse in it!”


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


Born to Run

April 28, 2010

The first team of Polar Huskies pull Mille Porsild, Aaron Doering and the first sled on to the ice sheet, the first few steps of a 1000-mile journey to Summit Station. Photo: Robin Davies

The GoNorth! Polar Huskies, Mille Porsild and Aaron Doering run for the ice margin, the first few steps in a 1000-mile journey to Summit Station. Photo: Robin Davies

Now that they’re on the trail to Summit Station, the GoNorth! team is posting daily audio updates at their Web site–stop in to find out how the day has gone. Learn all about Greenland, “climate chaos,” and the seven principals of adventure learning. Read the answers to 10 great questions submitted each week by adventure learners. Visit the scrapbook to “see” through the eyes of the GoNorth! team, head out to the dog yard to meet the Polar Huskies–well, just get on there and explore. More active participants can still register to participate in the adventure learning modules (K-12 students all over the world participate in these).


Travels with Kenji

April 28, 2010

Kenji Yoshikawa calls in adjustments to his permafrost outreach itinerary. Photo: Ned Rozell, http://www.alaskatracks.com

Permafrost troubadour Kenji Yoshikawa (University of Alaska) last week visited permafrost observatories in remote villages of Alaska. “In general weather was not great this spring especially Bristol Bay area,” Yoshikawa wrote to PFS’ Alaska support manager Marin Kuizenga. “I could not make some villages by the weather at this time.”

Kenji is a one-man Arctic Observing Network or AON, and he spends the summer in perpetual movement (or so it seems to us) servicing permafrost sites sprinkled all over the Arctic, and concentrated in Alaska. At each stop, he brings his permafrost knowledge to local residents.

Yoshikawa presents permafrost information to Alaska's next generation. Photo: http://www.uaf.edu/permafrost/

Ned Rozell joined Yoshikawa last week. Ned wrote about the adventure and posted pictures to his AlaskaTracks Web site. Don’t miss his observations.

Yoshikawa also maintains a permafrost outreach site at www.uaf.edu/permafrost/. This fun site is full of tidbits about the places he visits, amply peppered with pictures. Make sure you have time to enjoy this site when you visit, because it’s easy to linger in Kenji’s world. And of course, there’s Tunnelman. 

Yoshikawa’s grant from the National Science Foundation  funds the installation and maintenance of around 100 permafrost observatories around Alaska.  For each one, Yoshikawa drills into the permafrost and installs micro dataloggers with temperature sensors to measure air and permafrost temperatures on the hour. These observatories are located next to schools. Yoshikawa visits the schools, teaches students and instructors about his work and then trains them to download and analyze the data from his instruments.

Yoshikawa visits a permafrost observatory. Photo: http://www.uaf.edu/permafrost/


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?