A plane as big as a C-5a Galaxy creates a stir wherever it goes. Last week in Kangerlussuaq, when the C-5 landed with 32 pallets of cargo, people turned out. With 103,000 pounds of program goods and materials in its hold, the arrival of the C-5a meant forklifts and cargo handlers were busy doing a well-practiced dance out there in the yard for a few solid hours.
Not today anyway
The ash plume from Iceland’s exploding Eyjafjallajokull volcano drifted toward Greenland today, leading officials to close airports on the island’s southwestern coast, including Kangerlussuaq, the main logistics hub for the National Science Foundation’s polar research program in Greenland. Scientists and support personnel bound for Greenland waited in Schenectady, near the Stratton Air Base, in Scotia, New York, from which the Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing flies the ski-equipped C-130s.
Last week while many of Europe’s airports were shuttered due to the ash cloud, Greenland’s airports remained open and program personnel arriving from the US were able to reach Kangerlussuaq—some in the gigantic C-5a Galaxy airplane that visited from Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, New York. But the winds shifted on Monday, sending the cloud on a westerly path toward Greenland.
The Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, which provides the C-130 heavy airlift for the U.S. polar programs, will monitor airport closures and meteorological information, daily making go/no-go announcements for personnel waiting for flights to resume.
The main NSF logistics operation in Greenland resumed last week with the arrival of the Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing to Kangerlussuaq, bringing research teams, CH2M HILL Polar Services staff, and Kellyville radar site technicians to the world’s largest island.
“There were 20 some people on last week’s flight, which is a big opening,” wrote PFS’ Kyli Olson, on hand to help with opening. “We’re all off to the races!”
Working closely together: Kathy Young and Mark Begnaud. Kathy, long the operations manager at Summit Station, this year will helm the hub in Kangerlussuaq; Mark comes out of retirement to help her get underway. PFS staffers Drew Abbott and Silver Williams arrived to prepare for Raven Camp put-in later this month. These two will spend the season—another one!–operating the ANG’s Greenland training facility. “Drew and Silver are bright and chipper as always,” Kyli reported. “They immediately started unpacking the Raven shelves and said that the August pack- up is still fresh in their minds so things are coming together quickly.”
PFS’ Russ Howes, expert on all things mechanical, is giving the Raven Camp equipment a good once-over before installing a rebuilt engine in Blue, a well-used truck in the Kanger fleet. Mimi Fujino is also on hand inspecting the Kangerlussuaq inventory while Kyli pulls gear for research groups who will soon fly north.
Last but never least, Ed Stockard, PFS cargo expert and warehouse roustabout, has returned to the hub. “The first night we arrived, the auroras were the best I’ve ever seen,” Kyli said. “Beautiful pinks and greens…so close I felt like I could touch them. They rippled through the sky like an elaborate ribbon dance!”
What a nice welcome. “Even Ed said that they were the best he’s seen in 12 years up here,” Kyli continued. “You’ll have to ask him for photos.”
You know we will.
What logistics geeks do for fun
Some of us in the Fairbanks office found ourselves out at the airport yesterday just in time for the landing of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest airplane in the world, and the only one of its kind now in service. Originally built to carry the Russian space shuttle, the Antonov is a giant cargo-carrying workhorse these days.
We’ve been at this a while, so there’s not much about logistics that can blow our hair back, but dude! The plane can carry more than 10 times what the NSF’s C-130s can carry up to Greenland or down to Antarctica. Imagine!
No wonder it has 32 wheels (four in the front, and two sets of 14 in back).
Marin later sent a link to this graphic that compares the An-225 with the world’s other flying hulks:
It’s gotta be like flying around in a football field. For more on the An-225, enjoy this video:
A decade ago, the magnificent seven—Jill Ferris along with Robin Abbot, Mark Begnaud, Jay Burnside, Diana Garcia-Lavigne, Tom Quinn, and Kristin Scott—(with VECO International, now CH2M HILL, and SRI) made a successful bid to provide logistics support to the National Science Foundation’s arctic research program.
Led by Jill Ferris, our fearless (but for public speaking) and unstoppable leader (and owner of PFS), the team set out from the US Antarctic Program in December, 1999, entering the relative frontier of arctic polar logistics. In our first year, PFS supported about 50 programs. We have tripled that number in 10 years.
We’ve lost two of the original seven: Kristin Scott Nolan made a permanent home in Alaska, marrying researcher Matt Nolan (UAF) and starting a family. Turner is an apple-cheeked boy of around 5 who has more wilderness experience than most people gain in a lifetime; since earning her pilot’s license, Kristin now flies in the Alaskan bush. Mark Begnaud retired in August after another great year of helming the logistics operation in Kangerlussuaq, having come to a point in his life where he can choose to work if he wants to. Lucky for us, he has agreed to come out of retirement (like Michael Jordan) to help us with turnover—perhaps this is the first of many command performances to come.
Of course, we’ve gained a few people: Susan Zager, Marin Kuizenga, Angela Pagenkopp and Jason Buenning entered the fray in the early years. A huge turning point came when the elegant and ever-calm Sandy Starkweather joined the team to manage Summit Station projects five or so years ago. Another personal favorite in PFS staffing decisions: the hiring of the so-young and fresh-faced Kyli “The Pup” Olson three years ago, who has demonstrated time and again that she’s really an unflappable superwoman behind that Kansas girl exterior.
We had no children and few grey hairs when we started out; we’ve got oodles of both now.
We think back to the early days and realize we’ve gained a lot of friends along with the experience over the years. At times it’s been hard, but it’s mostly been fun.
So finally, when all is said and done, after pondering life’s meaning and consulting our thesaurus for exactly the right words, we come to this one absolutely true thing about Polar Field Services, the little company that could:
We’ve always had dogs and we always will.
Through Ed Stockard’s Viewfinder
Ed sent pictures of the seasonal close-out in Kangerlussuaq.
To celebrate the end of the season, CPS hosts a barbeque on the banks of Lake Fergusson.
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)
When Richard “Chico” Perales says that the Lake El’gygytgyn International Drilling project based above the Arctic Circle in Far East Russia was one tough gig, you know it was hard. Polar Field Service’s Texas-based Field Logistics Coordinator has endured enough hair-raising, mentally and physically grueling experiences, and otherwise challenging situations to warrant his own reality television show.
He’s sweated through stints on projects helping build petrochemical and chemical refineries, oil rigs, power plants, shipyards, and has spent most of the last two decades working at both poles. Most recently, he was involved in the successful core drilling project in the remote wilderness east of Siberia.