22 July 2007

Week 29

Monday, July 16th

Preparations and packing continues. Both heavy tracked vehicles are now almost ready, we only need to do an oil change.
Camp begins to look tidy. Cargo is arranged in nice little piles.

The very advanced Kansas radar has been tested tonight and the operators, Claude and Susanne are very pleased with the outcome.

Dinner was gullash and mashed potatoes. Cooks: Simon and Steffen.

Weather is nice: - 5 C, overcast, snow and 5 - 8 m/s from South West. Small snow drifts here and there.

Tuesday, July 17th

Almost ready for departure.

The Germans, Maria and Peter, reports their snow mobile train ready for departure.

The American, Claude, and Danish Susanne report their luxury express, Toyota with antenna array, ready for departure. Tonight the radar is tested on full effect. We have informed the Greenland Search and Rescue authorities about the
testing, since some of the transmitted frequencies might trigger an alarm on the international Search and Rescue satellite system.

Danish Steffen and Danish/English Simon report the ice core drilling train ready for departure. This train is also snow mobile powered.

Several cars on the heavy freight train are loaded, we just need to load the caboose, which is the workshop car with tools and spare parts.

All points to a departure from track 1 tomorrow afternoon. We have agreed that at these warm temperatures, we turn the traverse into a night train. We will work at night and sleep by day. In terms of light this is no problem as the Sun is in the sky 24 hours a day.

Weather is nice, -5 C and cloudy in the morning, with winds at 10 knots from SW. Later in the day it cleared and temperatures dropped to -11 C.

Since yesterday afternoon we have only been 7 people in camp. At 17.30 Sverrir and Lars departed towards the American camp at Summit, some 300 km to the South. They travelled on two snow mobiles with survival equipment and satellite telephones. They arrived at Summit at 0.30. At Summit they have collected a drum of engine oil, which we had arranged with the local staff that we could "borrow". We have decided to pick this engine oil up to make sure we could perform the planned traverses. This afternoon they started towards NGRIP at 16.20. They arrived at NGRIP at 24.30 in good spirits. During their travels, they have maintained regular contact with NGRIP.

To our American colleagues at Summit: Thanks for the oil and your kind help. Our "tourists" comment on arrival: "Now NGRIP and Summit have been neighbours on the Greenland Ice Sheet for 9 years. It was high time to pay them a visit".

Wednesday, July 18th

Greenland Ice Sheet Railways report irregularities in train services.

We are basically ready for departure; but there are problems with the radars.

The Germans were happy, their radar worked fine. It is a small compact radar system that examines the topmost 50 m of snow. The radar is capable of detecting layer structures in the snow, that can be interpreted as annual layers. Radar results yield a picture on the development of annual snowfall in the area for the past 100 years.

Even though we were aware that the two radars, the German and the US, could influence and in fact damage each other, we were unaware that the German radar antenna amplifier ran on batteries and remained on, even though the radar was switched off. As the US radar was switched on, it fried the electronics in the German radar antennas. The Germans have now changed their antennas, and to avoid similar things in the future, they keep a 10 km distance to the other radar.

The US radar is a very complex prototype system, and the tuning and adjustments take time. The team is in constant contact with headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas, and we remain optimistic for it to run soon.

The radar surveys are important to the project, so we have decided to wait a few days until they work.

Weather is lousy, -3 C with dense cloud cover and snow, almost no wind and the lighting conditions are so poor that it is impossible to see any structures on the snow, like deep tracks or snow drifts. We can only drive and walk with great care. In these conditions, all dark surfaces reach temperatures above freezing causing water to drip off vehicles and equipment - a really sticky experience.

Thursday, July 19th

While we wait for the radar.

Simon, Claude and Susanne have worked on the radar the whole day, and now it looks as if we are getting somewhere. They report that by tomorrow we should be going.

The rest of the team have packed down the last cargo on the sledges. Lars has made sure that all GPS systems have the same waypoints, and that the German radar team and Lars's system for ice positions and survey follow routes which are a bit removed from the main train route.

It is soon time to say goodbye to the old faithful NGRIP main dome, which we sometimes refer to as the "submarine". The only entry to the dome is through the top hatch.

For dinner we had outdoor barbecue. Steffen and Sverrir had converted an old oil pan from one of the tracked vehicles to a suitable grill. Weather made sure this dinner became a very nice experience.

Weather today has been really fine, -7 C with sunshine from a blue sky. It has been a pleasure to work outside all day. Everything you do just becomes more successful under these conditions.

Friday, July 20th

Radar is ready, we can go.

At 5.30 PM the radar people reported their systems ready, and immediately thereafter the camp was buzzing with activity. The last minute things had to be packed, and items awaiting pick-up by the 2nd traverse had to be packed down properly, in case the 2nd traverse doesn't make it this year, but has to wait until next year.

We agreed to finish packing and go to bed early to start early and get a long full day of travel. Of course things do not play out as planned. In the midst of all the shunting back and forth with heavy sledges, one of the tracked vehicles got stuck in reverse! No good. Some people noted, that we would have to split the traverse in two: One half going to NEEM and the other half backwards to Summit. It turned out the fault was electric, and it was found and repaired at 1.30 AM.

Departure tomorrow at Noon.

Weather today has been really fine, -7 C with sunshine from a blue sky. In the evening temperatures dropped to -19 C and the snow attained this wonderful squirky sound, when walking around.

Saturday, July 21st


Finally, we got moving. As we are somewhat delayed in our schedule, we are not sure we can make a second traverse to NGRIP this year. Therefore we spent some time to close down camp and park two snow mobiles and our small Caterpillar in a garage tent. The generator in the old NGRIP dome has served us well, and it was turned off at 2PM. We cleaned the main dome and sealed the top hatch.

We departed NGRIP heading North at 6.30PM. Just before we left camp, we had a photo session where pictures were taken of people and the traveling circus.

At 1:00AM we camped 27km from NGRIP. About 4 km before the camp J.P. got his tractor train stuck. It took two hours to get it free again.

Weather today at NGRIP has been really fine, -7 C and sunshine from a blue sky. In camp temperatures dropped to -20 C and it was with very cold hands that the tents were erected. We had supper at 2AM in the big tomato (that's our nickname for the round red fibreglass kitchen cabin) and went to bed.

Sunday, July 22nd


We woke up in the middle of nowhere - white snow all around to the horizon. We broke camp and began to develop methods to both pack down in a practical way and to distribute tasks. A lot of small things were dealt with, e.g. the way the kitchen was laid out.

We started at 4.30 PM and stopped again at 9.30PM after 25 km driving, 52 km from NGRIP. It was originally intended that we would drive by night and sleep by day; but it has turned out, that at the low temperatures at night the snow becomes so loose, that the tracked vehicles loose traction. Therefore, we stopped early to obtain a long day Monday. This decision suits the snow mobile drivers very well, as there is a huge difference in comfort, driving at -20 C at low sun and at -7 C in intense sunshine.

All teams: The German radar team, Kansas radar team, Lars doing the GPS position network and the main team are satisfied with things so far.

The whole camp was constructed in 40 minutes.

Weather today has been really fine, -7 C and sunshine from a blue sky. After 8PM temperatures dropped to -18 C. Almost no wind and some ice fog in the night.

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