We didn’t have much time to relax in Kanger. After we landed, it was already time to re-focus on the next leg of the trip: A new field campaign out of Summit station (north of RAVEN). Andreas and Kate will continue there, and Johanna will replace Clint for the next few weeks.
Andreas, Kate, and Johanna stayed in the hotel and were ready the next morning at 9:30 AM for their flight to Summit. Most of the gear will simply turn around and fly up to Summit, but some more fuel drums were added.
Clint headed to the airport for his flight home. As he was waiting, he saw a C-130 Hercules ready to take off! Kate, Andreas, and Johanna were already on their way back up onto the ice.
Packing up our camp and equipment was a lot of work! Most of our gear was buried in snow, and had to be dug out before set on pallets (which were themselves buried). We had help here from our friends at RAVEN, who used their PistenBully to move snow and pull our pallets to higher ground. We did as much packing as we could during the first day back, but some items (tents, stove, etc) could not be packed until the last minute.
The next day, a big storm arrived with much snow and wind. This halted our packing efforts for two days. The second of these was our intended departure day! This was rather disappointing, because we felt ready to leave but we had another day (or more?) on the ice. However, this delay did give Kate a first chance to look at the data we collected – it looked good!
The delay also gave us a chance to visit the DYE-2 radar station. This is a radar station from the cold war that was abandoned in 1988 and has been getting progressively more buried in snow ever since. We were able to get inside the radar dome, which was quite a contrast to the exposed conditions we had experienced in the past few weeks. Immediately surrounding the structure are cliffs of ice and snow that look rather dangerous!
The next morning was calm, and we had a hope that our flight would go. We spent the morning packing our last belongings on to the pallets, and we were excited to see our plane arrive and land at about 9:30 AM. We were onboard by 10:30 AM, and back in Kanger less than an hour later. What a trip!
Unfortunately, we soon had to say our goodbyes. Kate and Andreas are continuing on to Summit station in the next phase of the trip, and must quarantine in the hotel overnight. Clint returned to the KISS facility before his flight home to Oslo the next day.
We drove about 1000 km to set up 6 stations. Now we had to re-do all this driving to pick them up. We started eastward to retrace our steps from the first traverse. The wind in the past week had created large sastrugi that were not there the first time we travelled here. We lost our sled loads a few times, and made it only ~50 km before it was late enough to set up camp. Since we were not here long, we again only set up a sleeping tent and ate outside.
We were more efficient on the rest of this traverse: On the 2nd day, we picked up our eastern station, then drove north 110 km to our next station. On the 3rd day we picked up this station and our northern station 120 km north, and then started south back again. Despite difficult driving over sastrugi, we drove all the way back to RAVEN camp the next day. This was then 17th of May, which is a holiday in Norway, and we had a small celebration.
We took it easy the next morning (first time in a while) and then packed up for a last traverse to pick up the southern stations. Before leaving, we checked on our nearby station to see if it was still working – it was! More concerning, however, was an army exercise of some kind going on – they set up a radio tower that was transmitting and receiving, hopefully not enough to interfere much with our nearby station!
We started driving after lunch, again through sastrugi that cleared about 15 km before the end of the day (same as the last time we crossed here). We set up camp and the next morning we drove to pick up our most southern station, and then back. The easy driving conditions made this a relatively easy day! On the last day of the traverse, we picked up our last station and drove home to RAVEN. Now we have collected all of our stations – the only thing left is to pack and fly home.
Now we had a choice: Do we have time in our trip to do a second traverse to the south setting up two stations? Remember that we need to pick up the stations again. Or, we could set up stations as day trips from RAVEN, which would give more flexibility and involves less setting-up and taking-down camp, but it provides poorer coverage across Greenland. Kate counted the days, and we decided to take a chance that the weather will be favorable in the next week – we re-packed and set off for second traverse to the south.
There was a strong wind during the night, which had made for some big snowdrifts in our RAVEN camp, but had otherwise blown away most of the loose snow. It was a lot of work to dig out our equipment before we set off. Once we did, we quickly found that the wind had presented a new problem: sastrugi! These are small hills and valley formations that form parallel to the wind direction. Driving across them on a snowmobile is difficult and bumpy – we had to slow our speed considerably. Furthermore, the rough travelling surface shook our gear considerably and our sleds even detached from our snowmobile several times. The first ~90 km of trip took much longer than we expected at rates of 20-25 km/hr, but the sastrugi cleared in the last 20 km and we were able to speed up to about 50 km/hr!
We came to a place that seemed to be perpetually surrounded by clouds on the horizon, but clear skies above! Despite the late hour, we set up a station in this location and also set up camp. It was an exhausting day.
The next day, was relatively clear with good driving conditions. We drove 110 km further south, set up a station, and then drove back to our camp. At this point, we have all 6 of our stations in the snow! Now it is just a matter of picking them up again before we have to leave.
We drove back to our camp at RAVEN the next day. This involved driving back through the sastrugi, which was painful but at least it wasn’t a surprise. We made it back to our camp, but we only stayed for a few hours: It was already time to start picking up stations!
After our first success with setting up a nearby station, we proceeded onto the main work of our trip: Setting up MT stations across this portion of Greenland. On the 3rd day of our trip, we packed enough food and fuel for a 6 day traverse, and set off toward the east.
The first day, we drove 110 km to the east, and set up a new camp. We set a station in this location in the morning, and then drove 110 km to the north and camped again. The next morning, we set another station, but the weather report was for high winds so we decided to spend another night in this location. The winds did come and we were glad not to be moving camp in them. The next morning, however, was calm and we drove 120 km north, set a station, and then drove another 60 km back toward RAVEN. This time we only set up a sleeping tent, instead cooking and eating under the clear skies. It was cold, but we saved time! We drove the rest of the way back to RAVEN the next day. Waiting for us was a mail delivery! Some cables for our instruments arrived from Europe, and were brought up to RAVEN while we were away.
At this point, we have 4 stations in the ice, on the 7th day of our trip – good progress!
After a 1-day delay due to weather, we received the news that we were cleared to fly up to RAVEN station on the Greenland Ice Sheet. We packed our bags, sent some final e-mails (no internet connectivity up there) and arrived for our flight at about 10:30 AM. Without much delay, we were flying on a C-130 Hercules up onto the ice sheet. These planes are operated by the NY air national guard, who transport scientists up to and down from the ice as practice for miliary operations. Our plane had us 3 passengers and our gear, which consisted of two large pallets and three snowmobiles. Upon landing, the pallets were pallets were pushed out the back of the plane onto the snow, and the snowmobiles were driven off the plane. We exited the back of the plane too, and we were on the ice!
RAVEN station is serviced by only two people: Trisha and David, who maintain the runway and make weather observations. They pulled our pallets off the runway, and we began to set up camp. One large “Arctic Oven” tent would serve as our base station during the entire period, acting as shelter during meals while we are at RAVEN and a storage tent for gear while we are away. Our scientific gear and fuel for the snowmobiles was stored on the pallets nearby. By evening we had set up camp pretty well under clear sunny skies, but once the sun descended it began to get much colder. We learned later that temperatures during this first night dropped to -30C(!), much colder than we were expecting. This first night re-calibrated us to the ice sheet temperatures.
The next day we worked to set up our first station about 1 km from our camp. This involved digging holes in the snow for electrodes and magnetometers, and connecting everything to a logger and a battery. We had some trouble setting up the solar panel, but Andreas and Kate figured this out and we had our first station!
After a 2 year corona-delay, we are back in Greenland and ready to return to the ice! We had to shut down our fieldwork on short notice in the spring of 2020, and we could not even start to plan it in 2021. But now we are back, and after months of planning we are in Kanger with our gear packed up and ready to go!
We are planning to go to RAVEN station in south-central Greenland to start. This is near an old radar installation, and now there is an airfield there which is used as a training site for the US national guard. For us, it is way to access this part of Greenland and greatly expand our magnetotellurics coverage of the island. RAVEN is at about 67N, and we will travel a few hundred km both north and south from there. For comparison, EastGRIP Camp (where we went in 2019) is at about 75N. Later in May, our group will also travel to Summit Station, which is at about 72N. If all goes well, we will have excellent MT coverage across most of central Greenland by the end of this summer!
We are hoping to leave tomorrow for RAVEN. Unlike our time at EASTGrip in 2019, we will have only very limited connectivity while we are at RAVEN. The station there is not organized as a research station (it is a training airfield), so we will be living in tents and transporting all of our gear by snowmobile. Because there is no internet connectivity at RAVEN, we cannot (unfortunately) provide blog posts while we are up there. But we will update you when we come down, currently planned for May 23. In the meantime, enjoy these first photos from our preparations. It has been months of hard work to get to this point, but it is great to be finally ready!
We are back in
Kangerlussuaq, after taking the C-130 flight off of the ice sheet yesterday. The
field operations managers welcomed us back to land with a nice dinner at the (seemingly)
fanciest restaurant in town.
Some of us were hoping to
fly back to Copenhagen today, but today’s flight out of Greenland was full, and
so we all have to wait for our regularly-scheduled flight tomorrow. In the
morning, we helped the Kangerlussuaq field managers to load ice-core boxes onto
pallets, as they are being shipped back to Copenhagen today. We re-organized
our own MAGPIE equipment into a portion that will stay in Kanger for next year,
and another portion of borrowed equipment that needs to be shipped back to
Germany and Australia. We also helped load frozen food into the now-empty ice
In the afternoon, Maaike started out on her 1-week hike, Silje went on a bike ride, and Kate and Clint drove out to the Russell Glacier, which was spectacular. We saw the edge of the ice that we had lived on for the past month, and it it seemed like a nice way to end to the trip.
The first week at EastGRIP we had breakfast around the same time as the ‘old crew’, who had left after a week. After that it was just our team, the field leader, and maybe one or two other people being up early. Since the new flight came in however, you have to move through the crowd to win some breakfast for yourself, bumping into each and everyone you pass, a little but noticeable change from what we were used to. Today, Friday, we would leave for 50 km north-east and 50 km north to pick up two stations, one broadband and one long-period. Today is also the day of the airdrop and thus we will have to keep in close contact with Bo to find out what the status of the flights are, and if we are allowed to come back into camp. The pick-ups went quick, we saw one bird flying in between the skidoos, and we did some snow sampling again at 50 km north-east for the snow surface team.
We got the message that the airdrops were performed succesfully and that the two flights had left again. And so we were allowed to come back into camp, but we did have to be very careful with the craters that the airdrops created. These airdrops were a training exercise for the Air Force Unit 109, and provided camp with free flights for resupply. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the airdrops as we were too far away. They had pulled out one of the larger sleds along the skiway and put couches on them for the DV’s (Distinguished Visitors), high up people from the American Air Force, to enjoy the show. We passed by the drops on the way in camp, while Chris was retrieving them with the pistenbully. They made quite an impact and dug themselves a way into the surface.
We came back in at 4 pm and prepared the sledges for the last 4 (!) pick-ups tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Saturday night party and because we didn’t want to risk having a cold shower tomorrow with 40 people in camp, some of us decided to shower tonight. After a lovely dinner Kerim, Silje, Lucas and I set up the row of flags on the main road of camp. Traditionally the Greenland flag comes first, and then all the other countries of people staying here throughout the season and countries which are involved in the funding of EastGRIP in alphabetical order. It was really cold out, but we got all flags up in a short time. Of course I planted the Dutch flag, and I might even be the first Dutchie ever at this camp. Meanwhile people were watching the Chernobyl series in the dome.
After a good sleep team MAGPIE was ready to pick up 4 stations today: 2 broadband stations at 15 km and 7.5 km away, and 1 long-period and 1 broadband 1.5 km from camp, all short drives. We planned on doing two in the morning and two in the afternoon. But we were superfast as always and managed to pick up all 4 stations, by only being a little too late for lunch. Team MAGPIE has succeeded to deploy 15 stations, and pick them up, in 4 weeks time. A great achievement that can only be managed by great preparations!
In the afternoon we were all pretty exhausted from this morning’s work. We had some rest time and later started cleaning and packing all the instruments such that they were ready to be shipped back to Kangerlussuaq, Germany, and Australia. We managed to do a lot, which meant that tomorrow we had to do less. In the evening it was time for a game of Rounders, drinks at the ice bar, a wonderful American style mac ‘n cheese dinner prepared by the Americans in camp, and our last party and dances up on the ice sheet. We had a blast!
Sunday morning was rough. An intense storm came in in the morning: from the dome you couldn’t see the second weatherport! The morning we had off to rest, before doing our last packing in the afternoon. Kevin had prepared a nice Sunday brunch for all of us, and we celebrated Petra’s (the second Dutchie in camp) birthday with a song including sounds of the ice drum, wind horn, and formation of ice crystals. The last packing up also went really well. Luckily we had done a lot yesterday.
Dinner was a nice fish and chips, and after dinner we celebrated Midsummer Eve. Traditionally huge bonfires are lit to ward off evil whitches in Scandinavia. But as we have nothing to burn, Silje safely shot a flair in the air! After the flair we all went inside the dome for Steff’s speech on this holiday, with in the background the screen on with a campfire burning on it. This made for a great bridge to watch another 2 episodes of Chernobyl.
Today, Monday, marks our last full day in camp, if the plane arrives tomorrow. The last things that we had to do were bringing over the last boxes to the huge slegde outside, labeling all the boxes for shipment, and stacking everything on the cargo pallet which goes inside the Hercules C-130. And so we did.
The last packing up went very smoothly, and we were all set for our departure tomorrow. We had an evaluation meeting on what we could improve, what worked well etc. The rest of the day we had plenty of time to visit the now finally busy drilling and science trench and go skiing. Before dinner Valerie performed another beautiful arial dance.
In the evening the French film crew was shooting footage down in the drilling trench when an ice core came up. This hasn’t happened in a while due to technical issues and so everyone was very thrilled. The film crew had set up some test movies of the Virtual Reality videos they took, and we could all take a look. These videos will be used for a museum that will be opened in Ilulissat in 1 or 2 years from now, featuring the camp life at EastGRIP among others. Tonight is our last night in camp, and therefore the perfect occassion for the serie finale of Chernobyl, what an impressive series it was.
Tuesday, the 25th of June, is our last day up on the ice. The weather forecast looks good enough for the airplane to come. They left perfectly on time from Kangerlussuaq at 9 am. The morning consisted of looking for personal stuff around the dome, packing, and trying to think of things that I haven’t done so far but wish to do before I leave: visiting the drone and surface science tent. And so Kevin took me over and explained a lot of science they are doing there.
Our plane arrived nicely around 11:30 am, on schedule and it was time to say goodbye to all the amazing people we have spent time on the ice with.
After a warm 2.5 hours flight we arrived in rainy and cloudy Kangerlussuaq. We went for an amazing dinner at the rowing club on the shores of a lake, and had a drink in the American Air Force bar playing a lot of fun games such as table tennis, pool, and airhocky. It has been a wonderful time in Greenland. We have all worked so hard to achieve what we achieved. The field campaign is now over for this year. Thanks to everyone who put time and effort in making this field campaign happen. Hopefully another one next year. We are eager to go home, but first: the Arctic Circle Trail!
In the past few days, we have visited all of the remaining stations and picked them up – this included two that were 50 km from camp and 4 that were within 15 km of camp (which we picked up before lunch yesterday). In the afternoon, we packed up the gear back into its original boxes, and worked to get them ready for transport back to Kangerlussuaq and then to Europe and Australia. We have a bit of final packing to do, but nearly everything is ready for the flight back to Kangerlussuaq on Tuesday.