5 August 2007

Week 31

Monday, July 30th

Drilling site no. 2 and machine repair shop

Most of the day was spent repairing the broken Mattrack. The machine repair shop went into full swing. First, the break was ground down to prepare for welding. We unpacked the welding kit and, the plugs of the wires didn't fit the sockets on the electrical device. A Danish proverb says: "You've got to help yourself where you can", the crone said as she
wiped off the table with a kitten. The very same happened here. A threading was cut into the sockets, a couple of bolts were added, and a plug was mounted. Sverrir could start welding.

All the while, the Toyota sat all alone on the snow with a jack under the missing belt. When jacks are used on the snow, a support of a sheet of plywood and a 4'' x 4'' beam is needed.

At 4 PM the repair was done and the car back in camp again. Steffen was impressed by Sverrirs welding. It was made with 0.5 mm precision.

As the car came back to camp, Sverrir observed a crack in another of the belt drives. Rather than wait for an accident to happen again, we decided to repair it on the spot.

While the repair was going on, a barbecue was started in the gorgeous weather. The car was finished in the evening and we ended the day with a glass of wine and "The Pink Panther Strikes Back".

Blue skies and sunshine all day, no wind, temperatures from -7 C by day to - 18 C by night. Late in the evening: Ice fog.

Tuesday, July 31st

On the road again.

We woke up immersed in pea soup: Totally overcast, snow and no contrast. In these conditions, everything is white, both the sky and the ground. There is no horizon and tracks, marks and snow drifts are invisible. Luckily, the visibility was a kilometer or so, and we travelled trusting our GPS'es.

We drove off at 11.30 and left Steffen and Simon behind at the drill site. They were to finish drilling and to measure temperatures in the bore hole.

All day we drove by instruments. It made no difference to look out the windscreen, unless you were travelling behind somebody else and had a view to the "rump" of the vehicle in front as a dark blob in the middle of the all white nothing.

Speed was good however. At 8.15 PM we had travelled 60 km and setup camp.

Temperatures all day: -6 C.

We are now 325 km from NGRIP and 40 km from our goal, NEEM.

All teams report measurements running to satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 1st

Finally NEEM!

The caravan moved on at 10.45 AM. Weather improved during the morning, so driving went fine. We reached the end of our route at 5 PM. Yesterday, Lars had visited the future NEEM area with GPS, so he knew precisely where the ice ridge is. With Lars as pathfinder, the caravan lumbered the last few kilometres in a large U-turn into the future camp site. This way the approach was from the North and West, down wind from the future site.

Finally we were there. The two tracked vehicle drivers, Sverrir and J.P. shook hands. The vehicles held out without any major break downs. After setting up camp, we held a small ceremony. Lars (former member of the Danish national team in volleyball) took a volleyball and kicked it out on the snow. Where it landed was designated as the site of the future deep ice core drilling. We always like a scientific approach. We placed a flag on the site and had a toast in malt whisky. Afterwards, Lars and J.P. began to mark out the future skiway (NEEM airport) with flags using GPS and survey equipment. They were done at 1.30 AM.

The rest of the camp were busy unpacking the sledges. How wonderful to finally have access to everything at once.

Weather at NEEM at 9 PM: - 7 C, overcast; but good visibility, no wind.

We are now 365 km from NGRIP and are at the destination, NEEM.

All parties report measurements running to satisfaction; but at 5 PM we received a call from the Search and Rescue authorities in Kangerlussuaq. They were tired of receiving false alerts on the emergency satellite system, so they asked us to shut down the Kansas radar until a solution was found.

Thursday, August 2nd

We are busy.

The day began in a panic. The permission for transmitting radar waves had expired, so we had to react quickly. After some negotiations with the Search and Rescue authorities and the Radio authorities in Greenland via the Principal Investigator, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, and the International Polar Year representative in Kangerlussuaq, Henning Thing, we negotiated a reconfiguration of the radar. We could resume radar measurements - we were relieved. These radar measurements are a cornerstone in this years activities. Hopefully they will show, that the NEEM site is the optimum site for obtaining ice from the previous interglacial, the Eemian, in a deep ice core drilling.

Lars made GPS position files for Maria and Peter and Susanne and Claude. They are now ready to begin a radar survey in a grid around NEEM site.

We constructed a weatherport (a tent bulding of 12´by 20') on a 3' snow hill. The electronics of the Kansas radar was repaired. Peter and Maria produced 72 flags for the skiway (the ski landing strip). The skiway was groomed with a special instrument that breaks up the snow surface and compacts the snow so that it will become hard enough to support a Hercules aeroplane.

Weather at NEEM: -11 to -17 C, blue skies, wind at 8 knots from 185 magnetic. This wind is precisely down along the new skiway, which is optimal for flight operations. Luckily, we did not lay out the skiway at random. Last year our colleagues at the University of Colorado (the PARCA project) set up an automatic weather station in the vicinity, and thanks to this station, we knew which way the wind normally blows.

All teams report satisfactory measurements. The Kansas radar did not go today. They needed some repairs on the electronics.

Friday, August 3rd

From nomads to homesteaders.

Today, we moved into our hilltop tent. A 20 square meter weatherport is much better than an 8 square meter fibreglass dome. We now have a full gas stove, windows and access to things without knocking other things over. This author does not need to sit hunched over in the back of a tracked vehicle, surrounded by medicine crates, communication equipment, sleeping bags and other stuff. Now he can sit upright with both feet under a table.

We have now planted 100 flags in a certain pattern around our snow landing strip (skiway). The skiway was groomed again today. One grooming takes 6 - 8 hours.

The Kansas radar has been repaired, and after close coordination with Search and Rescue, the radar was switched on. Apparently the new setting works. We have not been notified of any false alarms. Tonight the radar made several good passes.

Earlier today, Peter and Maria had problems with the computer that runs their radar. This is now fixed, and they worked out on the ice until after midnight. They have now done half their program around NEEM.

The inauguration of the tent on the hill was celebrated with three year old haddock. The Icelander, Sverrir, wanted fish so when we were at NGRIP, he dug 3 meters down to an old snow cave, where he knew there was some packs of frozen haddock. Steffen and Sverrir baked the haddock in the oven with onions, cream, butter and cheese, and it became an experience to be remembered. Three years at -31 C had not touched the haddock at all.

Weather today: -14 C, 10 knots wind from SE, straight down the skiway, few high clouds and good visibility.

Saturday, August 4th

Mechanics are busy.

Weather today has been lousy. A thick cloud cover makes it impossible to see anything on the snow surface. These conditions make it really difficult to prepare the ski landing strip. You cannot see where you have been and where you have to go. Sverrir used the GPS to navigate. It was slow going, but he made progress.

On one of the tracked vehicles there are now many loose electrical connections, many times we cannot get it to reverse, and today we could not get it into first gear. While we worked on the problem, a call came: Another of the Mattracks belts on the Toyota had broken down 2.5 km from camp. The car was put on pallets and towed to camp. A main bearing in the
belt drive had gone. Luckily, we have spares and it will be fixed tomorrow. A quick repair is necessary, as work with Kansas radar is not completed yet and time is running short.

The break down happened 4 PM, which meant, that our Saturday night dinner had to be postponed. We had dinner a 11PM. Several had the chance to take a shower in our little cabin on the snow. Peter and Maria have now completed their measurements with their radar. They are tired, but happy that the job is done.

Peter and Maria made supper: Chicken with bacon roasted in the oven with pasta and tomatosauce.

Weather today: - 10 C, 4 knots from SE, over cast and poor visibility.

Sunday, August 5th

Fine day.

Quite opposite from yesterday, the weather today was gorgeous. The Sun was shining, and we could see things. The broken belt drive was repaired at 5PM and Claude and Susanne immediately went to work. Measurements are going fine, and by 11 PM they passed by camp for a quick supper before heading out to continue their measurements. 1/3 of their program remains to be done.

The ski landing area is now ready. The skiway is hard and flat. It will support a Hercules plane on skis. The quick test on carrying capacity is to jump up and down. If you don't break through the surface, then it will carry a Hercules.

Steffen and Simon started drilling. It goes well.

Peter and Maria dug a pit for snow studies. Both they and Lars and J.P. will take samples tomorrow. When the sampling is done, a seismometer will be installed in the pit to samples earthquakes over winter.

NEEM camp now has an official position: N 77 degrees 55 minuttes, W 51 degrees 3 minuttes, 2483 m a.s.l.

For supper pork chops with mashed potatoes and spicy tomato sauce made by Simon.

Weather today: -12 C and 10 knots wind from SE, blue skies, and good visibility. This is the kind of weather we wish for when we will be collected by the Hercules aircraft. The skiway is hard and has a good glide, and the wind down along the skiway helps the aircraft in taking off.

Previous Next →