20 May, 2011
From Byrd Polar Research Center - Research Wiki
by Clement Miege, traverse team
For this second year, The Arctic Circle Traverse 2011 has been an incredible adventure for the team. This year, we spent 45 days in the field on traverse. The start of the traverse has been laborious, extremely cold temperatures, -46 C for the coldest, bronchitis and snow storms. Those very difficult conditions created a delay of almost 3 weeks before starting the traverse. The second part has been a huge success, crossing the ice sheet toward Isortoq, among 2-3 foot high sastrugi, then 4 days storm 60 km before reaching our lowest ice core site. At the lowest elevations we had to deal with a very soft snow, at least 2 feet deep. 4 shallow firn cores have been extracted on the way back: 2x 60 m, 1x 25m and 1x 10m. A water table has been discovered and followed using a surface-based radar. This very exciting finding will have implications in terms of evidence of the increase of global warming in this part of Greenland, maybe acting as a polythermal glacier.
On April 5th, we got put-in DYE-2 by a US army C-130 with 2 pallets of equipment: A 4” drill system, 8 ice core boxes, a ground penetrating radar, 4 snow machines, 7 sleds and camping gear. After 1 day of travel a huge storm preventing our team to traverse further. After 5 days of waiting with cold temperatures (-35 to -40 C) and strong winds up to 40 knots we decided to go back to DYE-2: The health of a team member wasn’t good, a bronchitis got him and he couldn’t get any better with those cold temperatures, an evacuation was necessary. Back to DYE-2, we waited for 3 days in an emergency shelter until a HERC picked him up. The rest of the team stayed at DYE-2 and were able to start the 300 meters borehole for another project GLISN. The first 50 meters of firn cores were bagged and shipped back to Kangerlussuaq via HERC flight. On April 24th we started the traverse, but huge sastrugis made our progression very slow, less than 10km/h averaging 50 km per day. Another 4 days storm got us close to our C site, snow precipitations were important and the strong winds created an incredible drift, the camp were half buried at the end of it. The team was very motivated after this storm to keep going east as fast as possible.
At our lowest ice core site, we were only 35km far away from the east coast of Greenland, able to see Southeast Greenland mountain range. In only a week, we were able to get 4 ice cores drilled and a 80 km surface-based radar profile between them. We did set up a new record of 60 meter of firn core drilled in one day including the drill set up early morning. After our last ice core drilled at ACT11-C, 250km separated us from DYE-2; it took us 3 days to get there, averaging 80 km per day with the radar. May 11th, at 10pm, the radar team reached DYE-2 after 14 hours of traveling that day. At the same time, an Icelandic Twin Otter picked up a total of 26 ice core boxes buried in the snow, they drop them in the Kangerlussuaq freezer. The ice cores will sit there until a late season cold deck back to the US.
Waiting for extraction at Raven, we helped with the 300 m ice core and did couple radar surveys on the side. May 22nd the team got back to Kangerlussuaq after 45 days spent in the field, the shower was appreciated, the following days will be spend on the warehouse getting our science equipment ready for shipping back to the US on May 26th.
We first want to thank NSF to fund this research. Thanks CPS for their support at KISS and during the field. Thanks GLISN to allow us to use the ice core at DYE-2, Thanks Joe and Dan at DRI to process our ice cores in their lab at Reno. Finally, thanks to our traverse team: Terry Gacke our enthusiastic drill engineer able to produce high quality firn cores and Brian Ballard our mountaineer.