ARRIVAL TO THE ‘ICE RIVER’ DRIVEN BY THE WIND
The Greenland WindSled Ice River 2017 Expedition has reached one of the Arctic’s most relevant and fastest ice currents, the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS), after crossing the island from southwest to northeast for 15 days, and having covered over 850 km (528 mi) of the estimated 1,200 km (746 mi). This is the only polar zero emissions scientific investigation expedition underway on a worldwide basis. The convoy is driven by the wind that is generated by an 80 sq m (861 sq ft) kite, a creation by explorer Ramón Larramendi.
At this point, the expeditionary are planning to perform a dozen perforations on the frozen surface, in order to gather data for international projects Dark Snow, led by the American scientist Jason Box, and Ice2Ice, University of Bergen (Norway). Both studies are intended to better understand the impacts of climate change.
This expedition sponsored by Tasermiut S.G.E., departed from Kangerlussuaq on the 25th May. Two days later, after preparing the WindSled, its five crew members began the journey arriving on location two weeks later. That is, an ice current that moves at a speed of 100 m (328 ft) per year and of which its dynamics, and how mass balance affects ocean level rise, are still unknown.
Since its departure, the expedition led by polar explorer Ramón Larramendi, creator of the polar sled vehicle, has managed to maintain an average of about 10-12 kilometers (7.5 mi) per hour, the wind being at times not always favorable. However, the convoy, which carries more than two tons (4400 lbs) of weight, has managed to ascend more than 1500 meters (4921 ft) of unevenness without any major technical problems.
Together with Larramendi travels Australian scientist Ross Edwards (Curtis University), audiovisual producer Nacho García (The Beagle Productions), guide Hilo Moreno and Greenlander Jens Jacob Simonsen. On this expedition, contrary to last year, good weather has accompanied them most part of the route, although at night temperature drops to below 28 º C (-18.4 F).
Over the course of these two weeks, every 200 kilometers (124 mi), Edwards has drilled between 2 and 2.5 meters (8 ft) deep to collect data on snow and snowfall from the last years, as well as snow samples for study at the laboratory. This data complements the one collected by a solar-powered GPR (ground penetrating radar) designed at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, by glaciologist Francisco Navarro and team. Thanks to an air collector and a mobile weather station, they are also obtaining samples for a project belonging to the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, in this case led by Antonio Quesada and Ana Justel. Their objective is to identify microorganisms in polar air to find out if they are colonizing this territory.
Larramendi, via satellite, commented on his satisfaction with the vehicle’s response, once overcoming the problems they had last year with the four module convoy – 12 meters (39 ft) long by 3.5 meters (11 ft) wide – had to be divided in two. This due to bad snow conditions coming from high temperatures and the challenge of ascending a heavier vehicle, with more weight than any of the previous expeditions. He stated: “We are very pleased with how smooth and well the vehicle is going, without a single incident. Ross Edwards, our scientist on board, is already thinking about the possibility of incorporating more projects for ‘clean’ science. This is the manner to be non polluting and travel thousands of miles in polar territories. ”
The WindSled will remain at the ice stream – scientifically known as Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) – until the expedition ends, on June 25th. In origin it is believed to have a geothermal heat source located near the Greenland summit. Therefore, studies of the inner layers of the ice flows may help find answers concerning its dynamics.
These days the expeditionary will carry out, as scheduled, about 12 drillings, one every 15 or 20 kilometers (12 mi), at specific coordinates, to complete tasks scientists at the nearby EastGRIP base develop. The installation is located right on top of the ice current and there are drillings of 2500 m (8202 ft) in depth made by an international team of scientists.
The Greenland WindSled Ice River 2017 Expedition is scheduled to end next June 25th at the EastGRIP base, after one month of crossing.