Another Season at Summit!

Well, after some days travel – we are finally back at Summit again for our third and final season in this project. Let me give a brief summary of the journey that has happened over the past few days.

On Friday, 5.15 – we all arrived at the Scotia Air National Guard (ANG) base as chipper as we could be for 5 in the morning. After a quick tour around the cargo to make sure all of it was accounted for, we watched our safety video on the LC130’s and began our waiting game. As has come to be expected by now, we were eventually notified that mechanical delays would be pushing back our departure from 8am to ~10am. Luckily, that was the only delay we experienced as the guard eventually shuttled us out to the airfield and allowed to board the plane.

As is usual, we made a pit stop halfway on our way to greenland at ‘Goose Bay’ Newfoundland to refuel. Partly because the fuel is cheaper there, but also because we needed it since there were over 20,000lbs of cargo palletized in the back of the plane. Most importantly, however, we all got an ice cream bar while waiting in goose bay as a treat to enjoy while we waited.

As we were getting seated back on the plane, we were quickly notified that we needed to deboard and head back into the waiting area. Apparently one of the guardsman miscalculated how much fuel to add to the plane by 4000lbs. Oops – that seems like quite a bit to be off by. Glad it was caught by one other member of the flight crew!

We arrived in Kanger ~7pm local time with dinner waiting for us. In our briefing from the folks in the ‘Kangerlussuaq International Science Support’ (KISS) building, the science hostel where we stay in Kanger, we were told the bevy of changes that had happened since last year. I was happy to learn that ‘The Polar Bear’ – the not-so-great combination Thai-Pizza place was closed down this year. Instead, the King Kong Bar was serving food instead. This was a nice change of tune to hear, although upon further inspection it seemed that the family that owned the Polar Bear had just moved his operation inside of the bar – with essentially the same menu 😦 One nice thing about our visit to kanger was that KISS was very empty, meaning that each of us had our own room!

Photo by Ben Hmiel

A look at our cargo being palletized for the flight to Summit

The following day was spent tracking and organizing our cargo, making sure that all of it arrived and was en route to summit. This year, our combined Scince & Drill cargo came in ~11,000 lbs. This doesn’t even include the camp gear, food and Fuel that we will need to operate for the 6 weeks that our team is up here (probably on the order of another 12-15,000lbs). We spent an hour and a half in the CPS warehouse, packing foam into 90 Ice core boxes that will be drilled at PLACE camp as part of the core we will be collecting. (More on the Science in another Blog Post)

Following Lunch, we had a meeting to discuss the science and logistics involved with the project. After that, we were set to just get our rest and prepare for an early flight to summit the following day. Infact, 8am the following day came rather early, as we all met in the kitchen dressed in our ‘Emergency Cold Weather Gear’ (ECW) and waited for the ANG to call us to get on the plane. 830 came by and we received word that there were Mechanical delays. By 10, the word was that weather was good at Summit but the winds were too high in kanger to be able to return – The plane will only stop at Summit to Unload/Pickup People & Cargo, flying back to Kanger as it can’t reliably startup in the cold.

By 1030, the weather didn’t seem like it was going to improve so we were given our room keys back and told that it was unlikely we would fly, so we were fine to go back to sleep if we wanted. Delays like this are just part of polar travel I’ve become used to over the past few years. Having an extra day to just rest and relax was very nice, as I’ve been fairly overwhelmed with Labwork & logistics that I haven’t had much a chance to just sit on my hands and do nothing. Felt kinda good – aside from the fact that the food in Kanger stunk (though I need to give credit to a friend Robert, owner of the Phonecians Lebanese restaurant in Albany who sent Phil & I up with tons of Pita, Hommus, Mujadara, Falafel and a bunch more). Only downside was that it didn’t last for every meal in Kanger.

Well, after a day’s rest, we reconvened in the morning to await the status of our flight again. ~30mins after the scheduled departure, we reluctantly heard that the story was the same as yesterday – poor conditions in Kanger and not-so-great conditions at Summit. We were told that in the event that we took off and couldn’t land at summit, the backup landing point would be Akureyri, Iceland. Now, I’m not one to turn down a free trip to Iceland – although I would much prefer if it didn’t come at the expense of my third and final field season for this project. In fact, almost everybody in the room sounded a bit pleased to hear that we may actually end up in Iceland – rather than Greenland.

After another our of waiting, I had nearly fallen asleep on the couch and everyone else was getting a bit antsy, however we were surprised to learn that conditions had improved enough for the ANG to clear the flight and take us on up to summit. Wooo, we’re going to Iceland the room cheered and Jeered. So we grabbed our things and hopped on the plane.

Photo by Ben Hmiel

Seeing the guard members lacking confidence didn’t bode well for mine

The flight to Summit is generally a bit under two hours in a C130. I kept note on my watch what time it was, and noticed that as we approached the two hour mark we hadn’t started to make our descent yet. Eventually, I felt that the plane was doing circles in the sky. Everyone had a bit of nervous look and wondered what was going on. Eventually, the loadmaster came to us and said that the visibility at summit was too low to land, so they planned to circle the area at altitude for a bit and home things improved. Greaaaaaaaaat. I phased in and out of sleep due to the heat as I was wearing most of my cold weather gear, but at least an hour went by before we got the signal from the load master that we were descending. Awesome! Before I knew it, we were getting off the plane at the familiar sight of the big house and the bitter cold winds I’ve been all too familiar with.

Photo by Ben Hmiel

The majestic big house of Summit station is a great sight right from getting off the C130

Summit camp seemed much more buried in snow that I remember from prior seasons. Turns out the reason for this is that the crew that was supposed to come up here was delayed for two weeks in kanger, so they are behind on much of their operations. In addition, their D6 tractor is down pending repair parts that came up on the same flight as us. Hopefully they can catch up and get their tasking done at the same time as helping us get our cargo together and out to camp. Speaking of which, I’ve got plenty to do with respect to cagro and trainings (not to mention resting to acclimatize to the 10,500ft altitude) that I must end this entry here. Things are progressing well, hopefully they stay that way. At least the weather is cooperating for now!

Photo by Ben Hmiel

Having a team meeting for discussing what needs to get done in order to move out to our satellite camp