Ready to go home

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 core freezer.

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.

A last view of camp, as seen from takeoff.
The river goes under the Russell Glacier.
The Russell Glacier

21 – 25 June: “Victory awaits him who has everything in order – luck, people call it”

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.

Retrieving snow core samples for the surface team at 50 km north-east from camp. It is difficult to get the long core out of the snow without losing any snow at the bottom.

Here we have packed up one station and are ready to go to 50 km north from camp under a sunny and blue sky.

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 safely made it back into camp, but unfortunately missed the airdrops.

The airdrop: after 1 test drop, 8 drops are performed with 4 barrels of drilling liquid each. credit: Nicolas Stoll

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.

Although Kerim joked with first putting up the Norwegian flag, we changed it shortly after to the Greenland flag.

And the Dutch flag is standing as well!

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!

The cables are removed from the electrodes at the spot, such that they won’t get damaged during the ride, as the electrode plates have very sharp edges. They even made holes in the Zarges box, even though we do use foam padding.

Working hard on our last day of picking up the stations.

Another beautiful day to work on the Greenland ice sheet.

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!

Clint is laying out the broadband magnetometers and cleaning them, before they are shipped back to Adelaide.

Another, and our last, Saturday night has started. Here we are enjoying drinks and music at the ice bar.

The current happy camp population all dressed up in ties and dresses for Saturday night.

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.

A windy and snowy Sunday morning. credit: Nicolas Stoll

The toilet tent is almost being blown away and had to be reinforced. credit: Nicolas Stoll

Some cables need to be rolled up again as they were a mess and very inconvenient to use for a next deployment. The weather had much improved, but still wasn’t great.

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.

Silje is shooting with a flair gun to celebrate Midsummer Eve. She is looking away for safety reasons.

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 box on the sledge is closed. After this we labeled all boxes with their correct destinations: Germany, Adelaide, or Kangerlussuaq.

Kate is happy to be done packing. All the stuff on this sledge is what we used for our science mission on the Greenland ice sheet.

Chris, the camp’s mechanic, has been a great help to us throughout our whole stay. We thank him very much for everything he has done for us. Here we have strapped all the equipment to the cargo pallet, which took some Tetris insights.

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.

These are ice grains from a cross-section of the ice core. They are studied in the Physical Properties lab.

After a few weeks people are finally busy working in the science trench, processing ice cores for various studies.

Time for a ski with Silje and Lucas! There are ‘hills’ on one side of camp which are used to place the larger structures on off season to protect them from snow accumulation. We used these hills to do some downhill skiing which was hilarious.

This is a dead frozen falcon which is kept in the underground freezer where the snow surface samples are stored. It is in very good shape.

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.

The ice core in the core barrel. It has been moved from the drill to the logging cabin.

The first station for the ice core in the core barrel is the logging lab. Here Maggan will measure the length of the ice and see how that compares to the depth of the drill to make sure that they have a continuous ice core.

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.

Kevin next to the drone tent and the surface science tent. The drone takes atmospheric water vapour samples to study the water isotopic composition. And the surface team takes continuous water isotopic measurements.

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.

The plane has arrived on time, and is manoeuvering to the part of the skiway to get defueled.

Everyone is walking from the dome to the skiway, either to leave camp or to say goodbye to the ones leaving.

It got very snowy all of a sudden. Hopefully we will still leave the ice sheet today.

New people have arrived to spend a few weeks in camp. We are waiting to board the plane.

The MAGPIE team just before boarding the aircraft.

With the wink of an eye blue skies are back. We have hugged everyone goodbye and are ready for our journey home.

People in camp are waving us goodbye from the side of the skiway. Bye all!

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!

Silje is ecstatic with being back in Kangerlussuaq. Richard less so.

All off the aircraft and back to KISS.

The view on the lake from the restaurant just outside of Kangerlussuaq. Sune and Iben, the current FOM’s, gave us a warm welcome back to the coast of Greenland. It has been an amazing time. Soon I’ll enjoy more of these views along the Arctic Circle Trail (without any of the ‘no swimming’ signs).

All Stations Picked up and Packed

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.

Driving across the ice sheet to a station pickup.
This is the sled we pull behind us.
Driving back into camp after one of the last pickups.

18 – 20 June: LastMTdeployment_final_readytosubmit_draft_REALFINAL.pdf

Tuesday morning the weather was looking good. Yesterday we had spent the day in camp and we were rested to tackle another few days of driving far and picking up the instruments. Today we went 100 km north-west and 50 km north-west. We figured the broadband station at 50 km north can be picked up another day together with the long-period station 50 km downstream, in north-east direction, as we can safely get out of the shear margin there too. Long drive out, but the prospect of having to do less and less of these drives keeps us going. The weather was mixed overcast and blue skies, with quite some wind. Both pick-ups went smoothly as usual. The surface was really nice too, and therefore we could push the speed limit of the skidoos carrying a lot of weight. It’s a balance between travel time, fuel consumption, and melting skidoos. Today was sufficiently cold and the wind direction wasn’t headwind, so enough engine cooling going on today.

A small break during the driving to stretch our backs and get ourselves ready for the next long stretch to 100 km north-west of camp.

Packing up our first site at 100 km north-west of camp. After this we headed back to 50 km north-west for our second and last pick-up of the day.

The weather changed positively on the way back to the Polar Turtle. The clouds looked very pretty too. Here we have arrived at a waypoint where a GPS station is deployed yearly. Using this waypoint we know we can safely make it out of the ice stream, and coming back into, without encountering crevasses.

We had an hour before dinner. After preparing the sledges for tomorrow’s long day, Silje and I, although being tired from the day out, had enough energy left to go on a short skiing trip around camp. This time back to the classical cross-country technique as the skis I was on didn’t lend themselves for skating on the freshly groomed slippery surface on skis with no edges. Tomorrow another long day awaits us, this time with picking up 3 sites. After dinner we mixed ourselves in heated debates on who the werewolves were in EastGRIP and who had to be lynched before nightfall.

Skiing past EastGRIP’s sign post. The nearest place to Oslo I could find was Bergen University. Maybe we should add another arrow pointing towards Oslo and Sydney!

We got up early on Wednesday for another long day of picking up the instruments, this time 3 sites: 50 km south-east, 100 km south-east, and 50 km east, in that order. It was a cold morning as the thermometer read -17 degrees Celsius. Today would be a very strange day, as 5 people leave and 21 new people come in. We will be far away when the plane arrives, and we will have to deal with a change of environment when we come back in. It is still unsure what the flight schedule will be, as one of the three Hercules C-130’s stayed behind in New York due to technical issues.

Before we left we saw another nice sundog phenomenon. Driving today proved to be much colder than we had experienced in a while. After packing up our second site, at 100 km south-east, it was lunch time. Kate had the genius idea to warm up her pizza on the hot skidoo engines, how jealous we were. Meanwhile we set up another great emergency-shelter-wind-shield system. We enjoyed our lunch in the toasty sun out of the wind. Anders messaged that one of the two planes that had arrived in Kangerlussuaq also faced technical issues. However, this could apparently be resolved with some duct tape and thus the plane was still scheduled to arrive early afternoon.

A sundog before we left camp to pick up another 3 stations.

A happy team MAGPIE enjoying a well-deserved lunch break out of the wind and in the sun.

Packed up and ready to head to the third and last pick-up of the day at 50 km east of camp.

The last texts between team MAGPIE and the amazing Polar Turtle field leader Anders were exchanged with a good laugh, and soon our new field leader Bo took over. The first two pick-ups were long-period stations, and the site at 50 km east is a broadband station, so different types of instruments. The third pick-up also went very well, and before we knew it we were heading back to camp under the watch of the sun surrounded with a halo. Unfortunately we haven’t seen any birds in a few days.

The skidoos with the equipment at the site 50 km east of camp. Overcast is coming in, hopefully we won’t have to deal with flat light conditions on the way back.

We have our hands full with carrying all the stuff back to the equipment boxes on the sledges.

These are the magnetometers that need to be retrieved from the snow. This one was placed vertically in the ground, but surprisingly wasn’t very stuck and could be pulled out quite easily, much easier than digging the deep hole to deploy the instrument.

We reached our last waypoint before heading straight to camp, under the watch of the sun surrounded with a halo.

We were back in camp at 6 pm and spent the hour before dinner rolling up the retrieved cables on reels, removing other cables from the electrode plates, and organize the equipment that we have picked up until today. Something we didn’t have to worry about so far, was all the new people who had come in today. As soon as we stepped into the dome we noticed the hecticness. It was super crowded compared to what we were used to for the past 3 weeks. For the next days we will have to accept the situation and make the most out of it. Everyone is very friendly, but it is a shame that there is no time to get to know everyone, as we are leaving next week already. It has been a long day out. After having enjoyed a beer in the living room, having introduced ourselves to everyone, and having talked to new, for some already familiar, people, it was time to call it a night.

A dark night at EastGRIP due to clouds blocking the sun light.

Today, Thursday, we could sleep in. Initially Thursday was planned to be a full rest day. But since we have time, and the spirits are high, Kate did some research on other interesting places to deploy broadband stations. One paper states that there is a higher reflectance in radar data west-north-west from camp at the edge of the ice stream than in the middle of the ice stream where camp is located. It would make more sense that the reflectance in the middle of the ice stream is higher because the flow is faster and thus there should be more water at the ice and solid Earth interface. Therefore it is planned to deploy another 2 broadband stations: one at the edge of the ice stream about 15 km away from camp, and one in between that location and camp, such that a profile of material conductivity can be created from our measurements. What we thought was our last and 13th deployment last week, turned out to be false. We will make it to a total of 15 deployments, all in the name of science on our rest day.

In the morning we prepared the sledges for the afternoon deployments, and Kate and Clint went to the nearby broadband station to put the preamps in, such that we would have measurements at the 3 sites at the same time. I went for a short ski trip around camp before lunch to practice my skating skills, which went much better than last time.

Clint and Kate will put preamps in the ground at the broadband station which is located close to camp, such that we will have simultaneous measurements with the two stations we are deploying in the afternoon.

And there they go. On the right you see the nearly packed sledges for the two deployments after lunch. On the left you see the two ‘tomatoes’, which are the sleeping quarters for the mechanic and the cook.

After lunch we took off on 3 skidoos: Kerim, the PI for the Norwegian scientists at EastGRIP, and Gregor, a professional photographer, came along. We were really out of the rhythm of deploying stations, it has been a while ago. It took longer than normally for several reasons: getting in the flow again, talking to our chatty guests, and one failing preamp signal, and therefore having to replace one at the end of the deployment. Kerim and Gregor headed back to camp, and we were pushing it and trying to finish another deployment plus driving back in 2 hours, which should be just manageable. Since we had a failing preamp at the previous site, we had to go for an ‘L’- instead of cross-shaped design again. Again one preamp wasn’t having it for some reason, but all worked out in the end. Luckily it was only a short drive back to camp, less than 15 minutes, and the Dynamic Four was back in the flow and made it on time for dinner.

Kerim is happy to be back on the ice sheet again and to be digging holes.

Our chatty and social media hooked guests entertain us while we are working.

We are almost done with the first deployment. Hopefully there will be time for a second deployment before dinner, as we were working at an easy pace.

We are back to the Dynamic Four and this deployment went much faster. The last magnetometer is placed under again a beautiful sky with a halo.

At dinner we spent time chatting to newly arrived people, and in the evening half of the camp was watching the movie Coco. Tomorrow will be an eventful day in camp. Unit 109 of the US Air Force will perform cargo drops with parachutes as part of their training. At 11:30 am a plane will come in with important Air Force people to oversee the cargo drop. At 12:30 pm the second plane with the cargo will fly by and drop 4 drums of drilling fluid attached to one parachute about 1 nautical mile parallel to the skiway. If all goes well another 8 times 4 drums of drilling fluid will be dropped. The mission is supposed to end at 2 pm. No one is allowed to cross the skiway during this mission. However, we have to pick up two stations tomorrow, 50 km north-east and north from camp, thus across the skiway. We have permission to do so as long as we depart long before the planes come in, and come back in after the planes have left again. We all know by now that usually the Hercules C-130 flights don’t leave on time, because technical issues arise frequently. Hopefully we don’t have to wait hours out on the ice sheet before being allowed to come back in camp. I’m also a little sad that I won’t witness this very exciting mission, but in return we get very interesting data!

Picking Up

We have spent the last few days picking up instruments that we deployed 10 or more days ago. This means diving back to the sites, digging the equipment out of the snow, repacking it, and driving on. We have had a few days of picking up 3 instruments, for a total of 225 km – our longest driving day. It is interesting to go back to some of the same places, because the snow seems to have changed. Some places that we remember as having a smooth ride were now rougher – the wind and snow that happened since we were last there must have changed the snow.

Tomorrow should be our last long day of driving – we only have nearby stations to pick up after that. We have only a few more days to do this, since we leave on Tuesday and we have to pack the instruments as well. We should be able to just make it.

Yesterday a planeload of people arrived and only a few left. This has increased the population of camp from 24 to 40, which is a huge change. Bathrooms, dinner, tents, are all more crowded now. Many of the new people will be working on the ice cores that are being drilled.

Sometimes we have had beautiful sky conditions while we are working.
A sundog lit up our drive home.
This is what the snow looks like up close. It is interesting the formations that develop in a flat expanse of snow exposed to the wind.

15 – 17 June: The Great Greenlandic Cook-Off

After a long day out in the field yesterday, deploying the last broadband station, we were rewarded with a well-deserved lay in. Today would be a rest day as well as a busy cooking day, as our team will provide the Saturday night dinner. In the morning we had some time to do our own thing, writing a blog post for example, and searching for the right ingredients in the freezer and freshie shack (which availability we of course already checked with the camp’s cook). It has been quite windy and a lot of snow has accumulated at the weatherports. I had to shovel half a meter of snow from the entrance, which had accumulated over a few hours in the morning, in order to enter the weatherport. After lunch Silje, Clint and I went skiing for a while near camp, the weather was beautiful, just a tad chilly with the strong wind. I went on my first downhill stretch on skis down the ramp to the concert hall. I figured that after having cross-country skid twice now, I was experienced enough (not quite) to try some skating on skis. I bet it looked very clumsy.

In the afternoon the cooking began. Kate felt at home wearing the ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ apron. As a starter she had already made Norwegian ‘knekkebrød’ on Thursday. These crips breads were served at the ice bar with a fine selection of cheeses, dried fruit, and nuts. These fine pre-dinner snacks perfectly complemented the cold white wines. While Kate and I kept ourselves busy in the kitchen, Clint and Silje decorated the dining area with all our imported Christmas fairy lights and shut all the blinds to create a cozy atmosphere. They also made colorful flowers out of napkins for table decorations. As a starter I made typical Dutch split pea soup, or ‘snert’, but then a vegetarian version because surprisingly there wasn’t any ‘rookworst’ in camp. Kate made delicious Australian meat pies with the letters ‘MAG’ on them (it’s a pun), served with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. A messy kitchen and some burn wounds later, we had chocolate mousse in tart cups topped with birds nests made out of caramelized sugar for dessert.

Busy day in the kitchen as we provide the Saturday night dinner.

The delicious Australian meaty (MAG)pies!

Everyone appreciated our cooking and decorations, and soon the party kicked off. We had to take it easy because we decided to go out early in the field tomorrow when the weather allows. That didn’t stop some of us from having these strange Norwegian shots of Aquavit with salmon in it, followed by snus. It was very dark inside the dome, and every time someone opened the door everyone was blinded by the light, and people coming in couldn’t see anything. When we left for bed, we saw a so-called sundog outside, a vertical rainbow. It’s a type of halo that is caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere.

The Saturday night party atmosphere. Everyone looks away when the door is opened and the intense sunlight blinds everyone inside.

Inside it is dark and night. Outside it is night and bright.

The rare sundog phenomenon shows as we stroll to our beds.

It was a short night, waking up at 7 am. After yesterday’s sundog it got even better this morning with a full halo around the sun. In the morning we all had our doubts about going out today (little sleep, the weather changed and was not fantastic, and no Sunday rest day for us), but we decided to do so anyways. The plan is to do 3 pick-ups today, at 100 km south-west, 50 km south-west, and 50 km south. This would involve driving well over 200 km, as we need to detour to the 50 km south site, and we need to avoid the areas at the ice stream shear margin with a potential of crevasses. Just outside of camp, we saw 2 black-legged kittiwakes chilling in the snow. These are probably the same that pooped on our equipment boxes last night. Their names sound fancy but it’s basically a gull, and it took us a long time over dinner to identify these birds but we came to an unanimous decision.  As we drove by they took off and flew with us for a few minutes.

The halo around the sun on Sunday morning.

Two black-legged kittiwakes are taking a rest on the comfy snow surface, before flying off again.

We first headed towards the 50 km south-west site. The bumpless surface in south and south-west direction makes for a very comfortable ride. When the GPS said we had arrived, we didn’t see the bamboo poles of the station anyhere. It turned out we hadn’t selected the actual waypoint, but a closeby approximation. Luckily we found the station only 1.5 km away from where we initially were. Digging up the instruments and cables, and packing up went very smoothly, all together it took us about an hour per site. We also got a visit from another long-tailed jaeger. This was the first time we heard a bird make any sound. We continued to the 100 km south-west site for the second pick-up of the day. Again this went very smoothly. In the meantime the weather had changed. It was completely white now, the surface (obvisously) as well as the sky. It started snowing and the wind was very present. The drive to 50 km south was harder due to the light conditions. The weather didn’t affect our station picking up time. The last site we also packed up in under an hour.

The station pick-up at 50 km south-west. Blue skies are still visible between the clouds.

Rolling up the electrode cables at the 100 km south-west site.

Before we left for camp, we had promised the mechanic to fuel up the skidoos for the last stretch of the day, as it is apparently not good on the engines to drive with very little fuel. With a leaking funnel we pored some extra fuel in the skidoos before heading into the open white. We only made two engine cool down stops today, thanks to much colder temperatures (less comfortable as passenger) and headwind. It’s hard to keep track of or be conscious of time when you’re out in the field all day. On our last engine cool down stop we noticed it was already 18:20: only 40 minutes left until dinner. Due to the distance still ahead of us and because we had to navigate around the clean snow area near camp, where they conduct snow surface experiments, we got in a little too late for dinner. Nevertheless there was plenty of homemade pizza left and kahlua ice cream. We were all exhausted from the long day out in the field and ended the day with deciding on what birds we saw today and with watching the Islands episode of Planet Earth II. Tomorrow’s schedule is dependent on the weather and on our fitness level.

We managed to pack 3 instrument sets (2 long-period and 1 broadband), 22 bamboo poles, 4 shovels, 2 rescue equipment sets, 1 tool box, and 1 safety box onto our 2 Nansen sledges.

To be on the safe side the skidoos needed a refuel for the last 50 km back to camp.

The weather has changed for the worse: there is lots of snowfall and any surface features are not visible in these poor light conditions.

The skidoos are driven back to the mechanic’s garage and we are ready for dinner in the heated dome.

Monday we got up early to decide on our schedule for the day. Next to that we’re all physically exhausted and that we have our last cooking shift planned today (which we could change with someone on another day), the weather is looking bad. Whiteout conditions and lots of snow: this would be horrible to drive in all day, especially now that we have to head into directions in which we know the surface is much bumpier than yesterday. Therefore, we decided to stay in camp today and do some work of our own, help around camp, write EastGRIP postcards to family and friends, plan for a potential broadband deployment if time and weather allows, and prepare for tomorrow’s long day of pick-ups.

Writing postcards to family and friends. When the Hercules C-130 arrives on Wednesday, it will take the postcards back to Kangerlussuaq from where they can be posted by the people working in the FOM office.

While Clint is cooking up a Danish lunch, I’m moving food between the freshie shack, underground freezer, and the dome, and I’m cleaning up the floor in the freezer. Here we see a sledge loaded with food in front of the freshie shack.

In the underground trenches, the freezer, and the concert hall lots of beautiful ice crystals are formed.

During lunch the good news came to us that the drill, which was detached from the cable, is being fished up after a few days. So the ice core drilling can continue, right in time for the new processing and logging crew coming in on Wednesday. The CFA (Continuous Flow Analysis) group also had a small celebration, as they had caught up with processing all available cores. We all went down to the science trench to enjoy a drink with them and congratulate them. In the evening Niko and Sonja prepared a very fun pub quiz for all of us. Team MAGPIE+Maggan had a good spread in nationality, age, and research interests, and we did a very good job and became third with only 1 point difference with the winners. For tomorrow, Tuesday, we are planning to pick up the 100 km and 50 km stations north-west from camp, but this is still very weather dependent. The sky is clearing up now and we have good hope that we will be out tomorrow!

The drill is recovered from the bore hole and drilling can continue tomorrow.

A small celebration down in the science trench as the CFA group has caught up on all their work, in time before the processing and logging of the new ice cores start when new crew comes in on Wednesday.

13 – 14 June: Colder temperatures return for last MT deployment

As yesterday today is forecasted to be a very warm day. We are happy not to be going out on the skidoos, as these warm temperatures and little wind cause trouble for the cooling of the engine while driving. Instead, we could sleep in after 3 long days of being out in the field. This Saturday team MAGPIE will provide the dinner, and so this day lends itself perfectly for dinner preparations. We need to know what is in stock in the freezer and veggie shack to make plans, and we need to start thawing meats if we need any. Kate is taking the lead in the dinner preparations and she has come up with some wonderful ideas! Meanwhile Silje, Lukas and I went out to the skiway to check all the bamboo poles and flags and replace them in case of damage. The strong wind can easily break these poles, and they are essential for a safe landing and take-off of the Hercules C-130’s with crew and cargo. We took out a skidoo and loaded up with bamboo poles, flags, and skis. At the end of the skiway I went on my second skiing trip, back to the dome. We came back in time for lunch.

Replacing the broken or heavily damaged bamboo poles along the skiway.

Silje is holding on to the sledge on her skis while Lukas and I are on the skidoo.

It’s a warm day to be out skiing. As every day, also the cold days: do not forget to put on sunscreen!

Ready to cross-country ski back to the dome. Who needs poles.

Silje and Lukas drove the skidoo back to camp and went on a ski trip near camp.

After lunch and dish washing, Clint and I got instructions on how to take snow core samples. Sonja and AK are doing snow surface experiments and are mainly interested in the water isotopes in the snow. Since we go out far each day to deploy, and soon to pick up, instruments, they asked us to take a few samples out in the field. Sonja instructed us on the snow sampling. First you put the carbon tube vertical in the ground with the arrow pointing up (such that you know which is the higher and lower layer), cover the top with a plastic bag such that snow from snow drift doesn’t enter the top, dig a hole to the bottom of the tube, take the tube out and cover up the other end as well. It is not difficult, but it requires some physical activity. Next to the one 1 meter carbon tube, we will also use a few shorter tubes. These are used to check spatial variability in the snow isotopes.

The carbon tube has been placed vertically in the snow. Now a hole needs to be dug next to the tube to safely remove the tube with its snow contents.

Sonja, in the hole, is using a metal plate to make sure that snow doesn’t fall from the bottom when the core is being removed from the ground.

And here we have the snow core retrieved from the ground. The saw is used to cut out snow blocks before shoveling them up.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on catching up on e-mails, writing blog posts, contacting home, housemouse duties, cooking, and preparing a talk for science night! Clint and Silje made a nice movie with text from the time lapse we took the other day of us deploying one of the sites. I was the lucky one to help out cooking and clean a ton of shrimp for tonight’s linguini dinner.

We are spoiled with food here in camp. For other species the Greenland ice sheet is a harsher place to survive. Here we see one of the many birds that don’t survive the foodless Greenland ice sheet. This is not a very attractive place for other birds on migration to take a break, next to their dead fellow bird friend.

After dinner science night was on! Anders kicked off with an introduction to ice core drilling, what has been done so far in Greenland, and why certain locations were selected. Then MAGPIE was on, we talked about Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) in Greenland, the potential presence of lateral viscosity variations, and how magnetotellurics is able to identify these material properties. We ended the presentation with the just made time lapse movie. Then Nico was on, he talked about ice crystal structures and how they deform with depth. This week he also deployed passive seismic stations around camp that will utilize the energy released by the drill head to explore the physical properties of the ice sheet and the bedrock. AK followed by a presentation on the yesterday’s and today’s warm temperatures. Today the temperature reached -0.6 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. She compared it to 12 July 2012’s extreme melt event when 98% of the ice sheet experienced surface melt. It was concluded that the earlier predictions made on today’s melting didn’t turn out to be that extreme, 45% of the ice sheet experienced surface melt, but it was remarkably early in the season to reach these temperatures. AK and Sonja continued with their presentation on the snow surface experiments, with among others Eddy-covariance instruments to determine how atmospheric water isotopes affect the snow surface water isotopes. Lukas was the last one to present, on CO2 content of Antarctic ice cores and how to gain more data out of ice cores and how different methods compare to each other. As a newby to ice cores this was a lot of information to take in. It was a very successful and interesting science night and hopefully more will follow during this season!

The next day, Friday, we have our last MT deployment planned. We will drive out 50 km west to pick up our first faraway long-period station, then we will drive to 50 km north, with respect to camp, and use the electrodes, cables and preamps for the last broadband deployment. On the way to 50 km west we did notice that the engines were getting hot again (the driver’s feet will get very warm). We started off in blue skies but this quickly changed to a near whiteout. Surprisingly we could still see some of our tracks when we deployed this site, but with the flat light conditions it got harder and harder to see the surface, and after 43 km I lost any signs of our previous track. We still have the GPS for navigation and we easily found our site in the bad light conditions. The wind was blowing strong and it was snowing, but we managed to pack everything up in a little over an hour. A lovely bird came by and Clint got the samples for the snow cores at this site as well. On our way to 50 km north from camp, the engines were not having it. We had to stop every 10 km to let the engines cool down. Although it is much colder today than the previous two days, we were driving with the wind, which is not favourable for the engines. Pulling a lot of weight on our sledges also doesn’t help. Another bird, we still think the long-tailed jaeger, flew right overhead, turned around, came for a second visit, and then flew off and landed further away in our scooter tracks. It seemed to have a hard time: it tried to take off again but only managed to move a few meters.

On our way from 50 km west to 50 km north from camp. The weather changed from whiteout conditions to clear blue skies in only 2 hours.

Here you see the bird in the distance just before it lands in the scooter tracks.

We opened the hoods of the skidoos, allowing for a faster cooling down of the engines. We really don’t want to melt more of the skidoos than we already accidentally have last Wednesday.

We weren’t the only ones in camp with bad luck. Wednesday the water vapour sampling drone had clearance to go above 100 meter height at EastGRIP. The drone had a very successful sampling at different heights up to 1.5 km above camp. Unfortunately, the high winds up there drained the battery faster than expected and right after the last sample was taken, the drone terminated the flight by an autonomous landing. The landing itself went well, but before coming to a halt the drone’s wing hit the one metal pole in a large radius and got damaged. Furthermore, last night in the drilling trench a hard core break caused the cable to detach from the drill leaving the entire drill at the bottom of the borehole. Thus, as the end of the cable came to surface, there was no drill attached to it. It is unclear exactly how this could occur and it is the first time it happens. The ‘good news’ is that the cable is intact, with no kinks or other damages. After a night’s sleep and consultation with experienced staff back in Copenhagen, procedures were set in place to recover the drill. I guess the MAGPIE team wasn’t that bad off after all.

With our engine problems we decided to go a little less distance north than initially planned, to make it back in time in camp for dinner, as we expected to also have to stop several times after the deployment on our way back to camp. The deployment went very smoothly, and Clint took more snow core samples for Sonja and AK. This time I won’t bore you with more photos of deploying yet another site (although this one was special as it was our last one of the season, number 13!), but I will elaborate on another beautifully changing sky during our ride back to camp by means of visualizations.

A pretty cloud blocking the sun right after we left our last deployment site of the season.

Some clouds appear close to the horizon, but generally the sky is very cloudless.

The same cloud you saw in the previous photo is expanding and making lots of baby clouds.

The cloud invasion of the sky is continuing and more fluffy clouds appear.

In the other direction the sky is still very blue, with a few small brush strikes of clouds on the canvas.

But with the wink of an eye the expanding cloud shown earlier has taken over!

Here we look in the direction of camp, and the clouds are catching up with us.

Today we could see the dome from a remarkable 18 km distance, which is a record.

By the time we reached camp, the clouds had catched up with us, and there was a complete overcast. We were welcomed with a delicious Greek inspired dinner by Alexios. Tomorrow team MAGPIE will prepare a festive 3 course meal. If you remember from my very first post: we brought in 74 light strands, such that we could take nearly 300 lithium-ion batteries on our flight over, as they had to be part of a device (strange airline regulations, the 14 car batteries were not an issue). This means we can provide very cheerful decorations for our dinner party!

If the weather stays good, we will start picking up more instrument starting on Sunday, with 3 sites per day. Keep checking our blog for more updates!

10 – 12 June: Broadband instruments on melting skidoos

Today, Monday, we would deploy our ninth and last long-period station. This is very exciting, as we have been very lucky with good weather days, and setting out these stations was our main priority. We will go in north-eastern direction, which is downstream. We won’t go further than 50 km as we know for sure that there are crevasses 70-80 km downstream and there is no reason to risk our lives. The ride out there was first smooth, then bumpy, a smooth patch again, followed by another bumpy stretch. All in all not a big deal as we were only going 50 km out. The weather wasn’t great, but the light was sufficient to see surface features. At the end of deploying the long-period station, we had again a problem with the battery. It turned out that the plus and minus blocks and the wires in them on top of the battery were failing. To get everything working we had to cut borrowed wires (sorry GFZ) and set up some creative connections such that the solar panel was also still involved in the electrical circuit.

We have layed out all the electrodes and cables already, and are now connecting everything to the sensor boxes and loggers. Soon we found out that there was a problem with the battery connections again. It took a while before we made the call to cut wires (no explosions) and create new improvised connections.

The weather hadn’t changed in the meantime. Much of the skidoo tracks we created coming out here, were already mostly covered again due to the strong snow drift. We could partly follow our tracks back, but also had to rely on the GPS. Dynamic Four (or D4) as we are called now by our field leader, was heading back to the Slow Black Turtle / Polar Turtle (PT), in other words: the slowly moving black dome which is home to us.

The GPS’s will lead us back to the Polar Turtle as the strong snow drift has already covered great parts of the skidoo tracks in 2.5 hours time.

So far Kate and I always drove the leading skidoo and Clint and Silje the following skidoo. Silje has to be in the following skidoo for safety purposes. When the front skidoo falls in a crevasse (which is very unlikely as the crevasse needs to be of a massive size for that), she will be the one rescuing us, hopefully.

Kate is driving here. Normally we should be able to see the dome by now, a tiny black dot on the horizon, but not in these weather conditions. It also depends on from which direction you are approaching the camp, as there are large undulations in the snow surface.

For the rest of the afternoon, we took the broadband instruments which are stored on a big sledge outside and took them to the carpenter’s garage. There we tested each of them to make sure we wouldn’t encounter malfunctions in the field. For the broadband deployments the electrodes set-up will be the same as the for the long-period stations, but the magnetometer is different. This time we have 3 magnetometers, long tubes, to measure the magnetic field in north-south, east-west, and vertical direction, instead of one instrument which does all of that. The broadband station measures at different frequencies, measures up to shallower depths, and only has to be out for a (few) day(s) instead of nearly two weeks. Data from these stations can hopefully tell us something about the heat fluxes at the solid Earth and ice interface. This is interesting especially in this location since we are on an ice stream, which moves with a velocity of 65 meters per year, and is induced by heat fluxes: the ice at the bottom of the ice sheet melts. All the instruments seemed to be working. At the end of the day the sky started to clear up. Let’s hope it lasts until tomorrow!

After our work of getting out the broadband instruments and testing them, the sky started to clear up again!

Today is Tuesday, and again a day with cooking duties for us. We had to move our plans around a bit, but luckily Lukas is willing to take over our lunch cooking shift, such that we can go out to set up a broadband site 50 km south, and in the afternoon we will deploy another one close to camp, next to our nearby long-period station. To go south, we first go a little west to safely pass the shear margin and avoid possible crevasses. Once at our destination we first do what we are very good at by now: laying out the cables and digging holes for the electrodes. After that, Kate explained to us about how to deploy the magnetometers. They have to exactly face the right direction (north, west, or vertical) and be level in the ground. We thought that learning how to deploy a new type of station would require much time. But the oiled machine we are nailed it super quickly, which meant we got back in camp at lunch time.

Especially Clint is very good in digging holes, and he always does it with a smile on his face!

Here we are watching Kate, and paying attention to her as she is instructing us on how to deploy these new type of magnetometers. We almost never look this passive while someone else is working hard.

The hole for the vertical magnetometer needs to be very deep. It is hard to dig at depth, as snow keeps sliding down into the hole. Silje an Clint make sure the instrument is level in the ground before closing the hole and covering the instrument with snow.

Connecting cables with sensor boxes and digging holes in one shot.

In the afternoon we went to deploy a broadband station near camp, close to our long-period station. We now know how to do so with these other type of instruments. Because Lukas helped us out earlier today with doing our camp duties, and because he was eager to help and get out in the field, we took him with us! He was a pleasant temporary addition to the MAGPIE team. However, one of us had to ride on the sledge. From experience I can tell you it is quite the uncomfortable ride, but luckily only for 1.5 km. Unfortunately we had a failing preamp and we were out of them. We could interrupt the nearby long-period station for a day by borrowing one of their preamps. It took a while to figure out if the failure was in the cable, connections, or preamp. We just made it back on time in camp for the dinner cooking session. I took the kitchen duty and tonight sushi is on the menu. Luckily there were a lot of interested sushi rollers, among which was Kate, so I didn’t have to worry about preparing the fishes. After dinner some of us watched the first half of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, great movie. We already had two intense days. Tomorrow would be another broadband deployment day, and a rest / catch-up day the day after.

On the back of the sledge before the ride. This is fine for a 1.5 km ride, but definitely not for longer rides.

I was in a great position to take photos of the following skidoo. Here we are about to leave camp.

Silje and Clint enjoying the leisurely ride out to the nearby deployment site.

Volunteers make for great hole diggers.

For the broadband stations we can connect the computer to the logger to check if the magnetic and electric fluxes make sense, and thus to check whether the site is deployed properly.

Sarah and I with the fish dinner. I can’t take much credit tho because I only cut the veggies and washed a lot of dishes.

Today, Wednesday, we set out to deploy another broadband station 50 km east. However, yesterday we found out that not enough preamps had been shipped for all deployments. Kate came up with a genius idea. We would put the one preamp back in the nearby long-period station which we borrowed for the nearby broadband station. Now the long-period station can run again. We leave the nearby broadband station deployed but off, as later in the week we can put new preamps in from the faraway long-period stations we are starting to pick up in a few days. The three preamps we pick up, we will then use to set up a broadband station in a creative way. Instead of setting out the electrodes in a cross shape, we will do so in an ‘L’-shape. With the south and west electrode in one place such that we can use one preamp for two electrodes. This way the dipole distance will be a bit shorter and thus the signal-to-noise-ratio higher, but not that significant high that the data is much worse.

It was such a warm day. We already had trouble putting on so many layers this morning. And during the skidoo ride we could take off our mittens and the top half of the scooter suit. Strange how temperatures can change so quickly in two weeks from -25/-20 to 0 (!) degrees Celsius. The engines of the skidoos also got hot as there was not enough wind, and we were driving downwind, and the engines couldn’t cool down enough with the snow being thrown up while driving. Seems like a design flaw to me if skidoos start overheating on the Greenland ice sheet… There was definitely some wind while driving as I remember seeing the surface snow drift and that it looked as if we were driving on the wind.

The deployment went quite smoothly, considering the different set-up we weren’t familiar with. I had a little struggle with measuring the distances between the dipoles as the measurement tape wasn’t long enough for this set-up. As we only had one deployment today, we took it quite relaxed. When everything is set up, we perform the so-called ‘shovel test’. Which is basically moving a shovel over each of the magnetometers and checking the magnetic fluxes on the computer for strange behavior. If no strange behavior is detected and some of the electric and magnetic signals are correlated, then we know that the magnetometers record the signal correctly.

Setting up the electrodes, seen from another electrode location.

Another familiar sight of deploying the instruments. Everyone knows their tasks by now, although today’s deployment is a little different than what we are used to due to having only 3 instead of 4 preamps available.

I’m watching other people work (this was the last instrument to be dug in the ground), whilst Clint is making the magnetometer level, and Silje noting down the instrument number on her phone.

Clint is showing a very solid performance of the ‘shovel test’.

We had thought about a good team photo and with today’s weather this was the perfect occassion. In the photo below you see us and what might occur during an average deployment: Clint being happy while digging holes, Maaike stuck in the measurement tape and texting our field leader Anders for help, Kate bending over the cables-sensors-logger-box and totally panicked because something doesn’t work, and Silje on the lookout for polar bears with her binoculars, gun, and satellite phone!

The official MAGPIE fieldwork team photo!

Two more birds flew over: what a great day out is was! We were exhausted by the time we got back from our three-day-strike being out in the field. Thursday will be a well deserved rest day for all of us. We had the evening off to relax and watch the second half of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. I also did a short literature study on birds in Greenland and we think that the birds we have been seeing are the long-tailed jaeger: long black tails, white grey belly, and black head.

Today the maximum temperature reached +0.4 degrees Celsius, which is very unusual. We need to be more careful in the future with riding the skidoos in these temperatures and with little wind, as we accidentally managed to melt parts of the hood near the engine. Scientist have predicted that Thursday (tomorrow) will be even warmer, and that most of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet will be melting. Coincidentally tomorrow we will also have a science night in camp, and we hope to hear more on the extreme melt event. Some say it will exceed the 12 July 2012’s extreme melt event when 98% of the ice sheet surface was melting. Read our next blog to find out more about the persisting heat and our last MT deployment!

Last Deployment

Today we drove 50 km west to a long-period station that we deployed about 10 days ago. This is the first remote station that we had revisited, and we were relying on the GPS coordinates to get us there (there are, after all, no landmarks here). It was foggy as we approached and the GPS said the station was only 500 m away and we still couldn’t see it. Then at about 200 m away, the station appeared in front of us out of the fog – GPS is amazing.

We took down this station and stashed the hard drive with the data that we collected. Then we took most of the parts from this station and re-deployed them into a new station about 50 km north of EastGRIP. We had problems on this transect because it we were driving with the wind  – and we have found that the snowmobiles do not cool off properly in warm conditions without a crosswind or headwind to blow over the radiator. Several times on this drive we had to stop to let the snowmobiles cool down. Finally, we adjusted the location of our station just a bit south to lessen the wear on the snowmobiles, and made it there. The way back went more smoothly since we didn’t have a headwind.

Now we have deployed all the stations that we are planning. The next steps now are to go back to them and take them up once they have been in the field long enough (about 10 days). The challenge will be to collect them all before we have to leave. We have plenty of time, but we cannot be sure if the weather will remain favorable. The warmer temperatures are a bit concerning because they are apparently making things difficult for the snowmobiles.

Waiting for the snowmobiles to cool down.

Broadband Instruments

In the last two days we have started deploying the broadband instruments. Yesterday we set one out 50 km to the south of EastGRIP and another near to camp, and today we set one out about 50 km to the east of camp. We only have enough parts to deploy 11 instruments at the same time, and now we have 9 long-period instruments out and 3 broadband instruments – therefore we shut down the nearby broadband instrument in order to use its parts for the further away eastern station. When we start taking down the long-period instruments in the next week, we can use their parts for the broadband instruments (and get the nearby broadband station up and running again). We even had a broken part, which would mean that we could only deploy only 10 instruments – but Kate figured out a way to redesign our grid (changing from a “+” design into an “L” design to get the north and south components of the electric field – this design uses fewer parts). Now we have 11 instruments working at once – this is the maximum possible.

One the station we deployed today, which was 50 km to the east and in an “L” design, we saw birds again lingering near us as they flew past. They seem to come out in the warmer temperatures – and indeed it was warm today. We had to peel out of our scooter suits while driving eastward with the wind this morning, and when we got back in the afternoon it was +0.2 C. This is exceptionally warm for Greenland, and it does make life easier. But it is generally to good to have melting temperatures when you are living and working on the ice.

Yesterday guest MAGPIE Lukas (in the red jacket) helped us deploy the broadband instrument near to camp. Since it is a short drive, Maaike rode on the back of the sled (this would be really uncomfortable on our long drives).
This is a better photo of the two birds that passed us while we were setting up the broadband instrument 50 km to the east.
This is our path so far (EastGRIP camp is located in the center. You can see that we have driven 50 km NE, E, S, and W, and also 100 km to the NW, SW, and SE. We didn’t always take straight lines, because we wanted to avoid areas on the edge of the ice stream where high strain rates might increase the rise of crevasses.
This is the same map, but showing all of Greenland, so you can see where we have gone relative to all of Greenland. (the red flags in the SW are positioned at the Kangerlussuaq airport.