Waiting for GrIT

May 26, 2010

Awbrey Cornelison (a Dog of PFS). Photo: Allen Cornelison

Awbrey, an irrepressible four-legger, demonstrates a GrIT state of mind this morning, as we all are on the lookout for the Greenland Inland Traverse’s arrival at Summit Station today.

They should pull up at the front door in a few hours, after nearly 30 days and well over 700 miles of snow riding. Go GrIT, go!


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

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?

Chillin’ at the State of the Arctic Conference

April 1, 2010

Photographic Highlights from the March Summit

Dig the special agenda centerfold.

Q & A in the Grand Flux Room after the Plenary session.

In rapt attention during a talk in the Seismic Lecture Hall. And “wrapped” attention, since cold is the state of the Arctic. Relative to, say, Miami.

Special reporting by Christina Hammock and Sonja Wolter.

Summit Bakery

March 23, 2010

Christina Hammock and Ken Keenan demonstrated some mad baking skills in the Summit Station kitchen over the weekend. Ken claims the doughnut recipe was just your standard high-altitude fare. Photo: Sonja Wolter

Kip Rithner wrote:

Hi Ken,

Adorable picture of you and Christina. May I have a digital copy of it, and perhaps your doughnut recipe? (Especially if it goes something like, “While the dough is rising, help science technicians with balloon launch for Match campaign” or something.)

Ken Keenan wrote:

Hi Kip,

I suppose you can have the doughnut picture.  I don’t often like being involved in adorable pictures, but that was a good one and it was a fun time.  My cousin Archie had a doughnut shop back in Vermont in the late 70’s / early 80’s and his doughnuts are the standard I fry by.  I have not yet matched his, but it’s fun trying.  .  .  .


At least he cleared up the hat mystery.

Soccered in at Summit, Danielson Has a Ball

March 17, 2010

Gutter Danielson works as sous chef. Not sure about the knife skills, but with a soccer ball for a head, we're thinking he's no mathlete. All pictures: Sonja Wolter

From this week’s Summit Station report:

“Summit Station busied itself with inventories, a few repairs, normal science tasking, and a satisfying SAR [search-and-rescue] exercise in which we added a new member to our staff.  Because of the need for all five Summit personnel to practice their emergency roles, Gutter Danielson was built, and has proven to be a very entertaining member of our crew. He is a good listener and never talks back.  However, we quickly found that he doesn’t vacuum or do dishes.”

Weekly safety drills (on a myriad of topics/scenarios) keep the small team tending NSF’s research station tuned up and risk-alert. In last week’s scenario, the “Norwegian dogsledder” had to be rescued by the team when his dogs disappeared and he suffered some kind of lapse. Per the report, the Summit five followed protocol, stabilized the patient and transported him to safety in under an hour.

Gutter arrives at the Green House for treatment. Concerned about a head or neck injury, the team has immobilized his soccer-ball head on a backboard. Christina Hammock rides on the litter, Geoff Miller drives the snowmachine, and Lucas Nordby and Ken Keenan (just out of the shot) stand ready to transport him into the clinic.

From what we can tell, Gutter has made a full recovery. He’s taken to station life like—well, like soccer legend David Beckham to a packed stadium (or a Calvin Klein billboard, ahem).

Gutter seems in no hurry to move on to greener fields. But who can blame him?  Life at Summit sounds like a lot of fun these days, and that Gutter, he’s no dummy.

Summit Station Spring

March 9, 2010

The sun clears the horizon near Summit's atmospheric watch building. All photos this posting: Katrine Gorham

For some of us watching from afar, Summit this time of year has a jubilant vitality—having weathered another very dark and stormy night, we shift gratefully from hunker-down to open-up-and-go mode. The five who are ushering the NSF research outpost into full daylight and preparing the infrastructure for the research season have an impressive tasking list.

Left to right: Geoff Miller (equipment operations), Christina Hammock (science services), Ken Keenan (management), Sonja Wolter (NOAA science services), Lucas Norby (mechanical).

Equipment parked out on the snow cargo berm has to be dug out, thawed, tested, tuned.  Buildings are opened and cleaned.  Summer camp—the flotilla of Arctic Oven tents—is set up.  And then there’s the ice and snow.

It is a colossal job to clear the snow blown over Summit’s winter real estate. Some buildings are nearly buried. And the skiway, nearly three miles of snow and ice, has been largely untended since August. Geoff will groom relentlessly between now and Summit’s opening LC-130 flight scheduled for early April, while each wind storm tries to erase his progress.

Don't adjust your screen. A spring storm wallops the Big House--but fails to keep Christina and Sonja from their science tasks.

For the two science technicians, it’s busy as usual. They continue the year-round circuit of activities in support of the ongoing experiments hosted at the station, assisted by Ken when he can carve some time in his schedule.  In addition, they notch up the activities with “Match” campaign balloon launches. But that’s another story.

Sonja Wolter adjusts instruments on the atmospheric watch building tower.