My experience in Greenland

Hello there! I’m the lowly undergrad who was strong-armed into writing about my experience travelling with the group to Greenland this summer.  It was my first time doing anything like this and really felt like I had stepped into a different world.   The conditions were unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The combination of the altitude, 24-hour daylight and the cold meant that I basically didn’t sleep for the first few days on the ice.  Even though I was taking altitude medication, I was sick for the first two days up there. Once I got used to the conditions (and found out where the meds were kept), I actually got some sleep and quickly felt better.

I was paired with Don the Driller and put on the nighttime drilling shift.  After a few days of training, Don and I began drilling the cores needed for our samples.  We would usually work for a few hours at 6pm (pretty cold) and then a few more hours starting at 3am (VERY cold).

Photo by Matt Pacicco

This was how I had to dress to work the much colder “night” shift.  While Don and I were outside drilling in the cold the rest of the team was either resting comfortably in their beds or watching ice melt in a heated building.  After spending hours drilling outside during the coldest part of the day we would go in to warm up, primarily to complain to our fellow teammates about the cold.

Photo by Matt Pacicco

Most of the cores that we drilled weren’t at the depth that we needed, so they were essentially useless.  These cores got tossed to the sides of the drill and ended up in large piles like the one shown above.  Snow would slowly drift over and hide them causing the drillers (well mostly just me) to constantly trip over them.

Photo by Matt Pacicco

Here’s a look at the science side of our camp at the start of a 3am shift.  The two largest buildings (both heated) housed our team’s melter system and sublimation system.  The drill rig (pictured below) is off in no-man’s-land to the left of this picture.

Photo by Matt Pacicco

In this picture the main part of the drill is down the hole.  There were two people working the drill during each shift.  One person would man the control and actually do the drilling part while the other would assist with taking the drill apart when it surfaced to get the core out. As you can see we are clearly working outside in the cold and not inside one of the nice heated buildings shown in the previous picture.  We drilled a total of 5 holes to depths ranging from 55 meters to 135 meters.  The drill we were using would drill anywhere from 4 to 6 meters in an hour, so drilling those holes took a couple weeks.  By the time the samples were drilled, melted and collected, it was time to pack up the camp and head home.

The experience was amazing for me.  I was born in New York City and lived my whole life in the city and its suburbs, so going to such a remote place was an incredible opportunity to try something completely different.  I remember talking to my grandmother a few days before I was going to leave, and she was asking me if “city boys survive up there.” Well guess what grandma; I did survive.  And I really enjoyed the experience.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by a great group of people who (even though they gave me a hard time) were always there to help.  I want to really thank the Petrenko group for giving me this opportunity and thank the rest of the team (Alden, Dean, Don, Jayred, Jochen, Ross and Xavier) for making the expedition so much fun to be a part of.

Matt

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