WindSled’s last hours on a glacier
It has been more than five weeks of adventure aboard the WindSled in which we have crossed the Arctic island of Greenland, in a year in which there has been a record in temperatures and thaw. A scientific exploration and adventure that would not have been possible without this strange wind vehicle where nine people have traveled 1870 kilometers (1162 mi) over an icy surface.
We are really pleased to have achieved our goal, despite unexpected difficulties faced on our way. We wanted to demonstrate the sled runs as a convoy capable of carrying two tons (4400 lbs) of weight, ascending high elevation altitudes, reaching and moving where no other means of transportation can, and all this without polluting.
This expedition, sponsored by Tasermiut S.G.E. travel agency, shows that this project has a future and can be the focus of any scientific program that allows scientists to reach places where impossible today. The last hours of this expedition were not without tension. On one hand, because we had the pressure to finish and we didn’t want to delay the departure longer than expected, the wind was unfavorable; and on the other , because as we descended towards the east coast, temperatures were increasing and the flat surface could finish from one moment to another.
In fact, when we attained a good speed, with Miguel and Malik at the kite controls, the shout of “crevasse” was a surprise among the possibilities we had, but that we expected not to find on our way. We stopped immediately. Fortunately we were already at a distance that made possible the arrival of the helicopter from Ilulissat town to take us as we were.
Before, we had to shovel, a safety area for landing, with the risk of falling large and deep cracks and holes around us and that were covered with snow. There were many hours of work, not without risk. We were on an immense frozen river, a glacier pouring huge icebergs into the sea and it’s surface, therefore , opens, breaks and moves slowly. It was an end that had us in tension, but that was perfect, because besides the helicopter, with our sled already dismounted, left us directly in Kangerlussuaq, just at the point from which we had started on 20 May. Now, just a few days later, We have the images of hose eternal days again and again, and of those blizzards that bury the WindSled completely, fortified by a wall of ice, the quiet navigation hours listening how the rails tore the immaculate surface.
Also worth mentioning, the camaraderie in the team, nine people always willing to work, either by fixing broken knots, sewing torn kites, collecting data for scientific projects or preparing the meal.
It was quite an event to visit the scientific base Summit Camp, that wasn’t at the very top. Later we reached 3240 meters (10629 ft) of altitude with our vehicle!
There we were greeted by scientists from around the world, many Americans seeking information that helps understand the rapid changes that are occurring in this polar territory.
The fact that in June there has been 24 ° C in Greenland is ‘very bad’ news for all inhabitants of this world, the only world we have. We have a beautiful planet. So spectacular that we must collaborate in its protection, through the knowledge we obtain from the WindSled. It is not only personally gratifying, but a pending task for all people that wish the ice continues exactly as is.
The WindSled finalizes the expedition successfully
The Wind Sled, led by explorer Ramón Larramendi , has successfully completed its journey of almost 2,000 kilometers , a route that has led the sled to scend up to 2,000 meters high and that has lasted six weeks. The team of five people who have completed this weekend the Ice Summit Expedition Greenland 2016 arrived last Saturday afternoon at Kangerlussuaq , on the southwest coast of Greenland, after the last hours in which they found cracks in the ice that complicated the end, but that did not prevent his arrival at the planned goal .
During the expedition, which had scientific and exploration objectives , it has been proven that the wind vehicle, one of a kind in the world , which has been designed by Larramendi , is able to navigate the Arctic territories carrying two tons and up to six crew .
It has been demonstrated once again that the simplicity and efficiency of the wind sled is one of a kind to take scientist advantage. ”
Flying towards our goal : The WindSled Triangle
If we see the route we’re doing aboard the Wind Sled on the map , it is a real triangle through the heart of Greenland. A triangle that is going to be about 2,000 kilometers, in which every day there are new things, Even it seems that we are always in a white , endless routine. Tonight, there was a rush of wind that nearly ripped from the hands of Manolo Olivea and Hilo Moreno the sixty square meters kite with which we sailed at the time. It is the third time that happens to us on this expedition to the Ice Summit, and like in previous occasions , we could not allow it to be lost, so we went out to try to find it, following his trail in the snow. It’s our main engine and we can not stay without it.
The last days pass quietly in this place without horizon, where again we have been going up to 2,600 meters, To go down the dome on the other hand, in a way that is back now. We go in convoy , Delighted with the strange phenomenon that provide us , the ice and sky together. Iced rainbow, sunsets that are not comparable to anywhere else. We sail when the wind blows , and if not, we stop to rest and to do different jobs . Malik and Miguel, who had never managed the Sled, obtained the “windsleders” license in just a few hours. It is actually not very difficult to take the control , as long as the wind does not make strange decisions .ç
When we write these lines , we are just 280 kilometers from the finish and we are immersed in a small storm , with the sled virtually buried and with no visibility. We do not see two handspan, so we can not move until this gets better and we spent the time playing chess, reading , drinking tea … As if we were in a mountain shelter , hot despite not having fireplace and despite less 9ºC that are outside . In fact, They don’t seem too much to be in polar lands.
We know that we got out of a problem on the east coast that we did not discern. The colleagues that left told us later by SMS that saw from the helicopter large cracks , up to ten meters wide , and they were a short distance from where we were . There were large puddles of water too. Fortunately , we do not keep going to the south and we avoided that unfortunate encounter.
Now we are going to stop for some snow data shots. We expect a hole of almost fourteen meters!
Record in high temperatures in the Arctic
It was time for the Wind Sled replacement. After 1,500 kilometers, three weeks en route, with an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, we maked for the last section of the expedition with part of the renovated equipment, that despite the difficulties caused by the heat, keep going with the wind. Ahead we have another 500 kilometers to reach the starting point. And it was just a wind too soft dificulted us to arrive to the agreed meeting point for the replacement of part of the expedition. It was planned but was delayed a few days because the unexpected good weather that has accompanied us left the snow under conditions that slower the advance of a sled with a load of 2,000 kilos. Fortunately, there are satellite phones and finally the helicopter that brought our three new colleagues (Manuel Olivera, Malik Milfeldt and Miguel Herrero) landed a few meters from our strange vehicle. It was like a film operation. Timed.
The four that were leaving (Oficialdegui Ignacio Nacho Garcia, Karin Moe Bojsen and Vicente Leal) were ready, so that the exchange did not last long. They left happy, thinking of the deserved rest. The five of us left in the middle of the ice, Ramon and Hilo felt certain emptiness with their depart, after so much shared adventure; while the trio of newarrivals was exultant, full of energy. After their departure, Manolo, Malik and Miguel (the three M) won’t spend much time in settle in.
Now, as we write these lines we are stand. The wind is zero and it is snowing slightly. We are taking advantage of these hours to repair the sled completely, after the devastation caused by the soft snow that are like knifes when it freezes at night. The locomotive module and the tent are ready, they had broken 76 and 146 knots respectively. It’s amazing, but it’s hot, very hot to be at 2,300 meters in Greenland. Barely -degree . They say that in the capital, Nuuk, they have reached 24 ° C. It’s very hot in the Arctic! And it is very dangerous.
As soon as Eolo is on our side, we will begin the last prt of our journey: these 500 kilometers, approximately, that we still need to land at the starting point. With the three Ms of refresh , this will be a breeze if kites blow. We do not know how many days we got ahead, but we know that we are in the final stretch.
Greetings from Inlandsis!!
Holes in the search of the Greenland past.
At the top of the Greenland ice summit we have overbooking of scientists. The base “Summit Camp” or Summit Station , in which we arrived last Thursday , is here and we wwere just on time for an unreal sunrise . At this time of year, we find in the camp about fifty people, including researchers and technicians , too many people for the small dimensions that seems to have this installation in this frozen vastness . It impresses to think that in such an isolated place , with such a pure environment , will get fundamental data to know the impact of climate change is affecting the entire planet.
The six crew members of the wind Sled had the opportunity to see in first hand the projects, almost all Americans, that are being developed there, and at the same time we can rest a few hours of our life on our small mobile home. Then, those responsible for the Summit Camp wanted to know our vehicle. We had to park a few kilometers outside the security perimeter, but kindly they gathered us and we were returned to the same place in a snowmobile. When they saw our sled, they were puzzled. The same face of surprise that Ramón Larramendi is used to see in every person that is approaching their design for the first time. “All are stunned to see how easy the sled is and how can reach places as complicated as this one.” The Americans were as some others . “But if it is made from wood!” They repeated each other.
After the visit, we manage to pass across the dome, that means to the east of Greenland side, and on board with the material we need for scientific evidence that the University of Copenhagen have given us . We picked it up at the base, as glaciologist Jason Box told us.
During the next night, once we started with a light wind which forced us to put the shot on the side to 60th, the GPS pointed us that we were at 3,240 meters, the authentic ceiling of the great Arctic island. To be where so few humans have set foot before us brings that special tingle that has always driven our species, explorers by nature. Once on the other side of the the dome, we begin to descent to the East Coast. The truth is that we don’t notice the slope. We see the same great mass of ice that when we climbed, and we expect the winds in this part, now we go to the southeast, are more favorable than when going north. This expedition is still an experimental test for all the possibilities that the wind sled have and it is clear that ar so many, but we also have to make changes to improve the performance when our wind fuel does not arrive in the best conditions. In fact, That’s why we are here!
And also to collect these data that can help to improve our knowledge of what is happening in the Arctic. As we move forward , we plan to make our first holes fifteen meters deep in the search of the Greenland past climate. Get it right is a challenge for the team .
We really have a chaos with our times. On one hand , it is because the sun shines all day , and on the other hand , the wind comes and goes regardless of our sleep hours . Moreover, the arrival at the Camp Summit altered the driven shifts we had. Now, we are recovering them , knowing that the body must be in good condition . We still have a long road ahead .
By the way , we are today -9ºC , so , as you can see, the temperature is really soft , too soft for these latitudes.
GREETINGS FROM THE SUMMIT STATION!
We are at the Ice Summit! For the first time ever a wind vehicle capable of carrying up to 2,000 kilos of weight and six crew has arrive to this point! We are delated, because we have very hard times triying to do this 766 kilometers, but we have been very lucky.
Last night the outlook was really black…very black. The forecast says that in the next three days the wind will push us towards the east coast of Greenland. And we want to go, but before that we had to reach the summit! Not only because it is a challenge to reach it with the sled, but we had a scientific commitment with Jason Box. The problem is that some members of the crew must return in a few days, so we thought if we divide the sled again the arrival wasn’t ‘traumatic’ for the vehicle and only the lighter side would go to the top. But finally, the winds began to blow in the right direction, and they have permited us to get all here.
The last kilometers we had a snowfall that we were not willing to put new obstacles … In the end, in a few hours we crowned these 3,205 kilometers in which we are now.
We can’t see from were we are the Scientific Station Summit Camp, one of the most important in the Arctic. A small mound of snow prevents it, but we are within walking distance because there are a science research zone of ‘undisturbed snow’. Researchers have designated and flagged off a large area south of the station that is reserved to study the accumulation and drifting patterns of the snow at Summit. The research requires that the snow remain in its natural, undisturbed state in order for the findings to be valid. No one here is allowed to pass through the area, except required personnel on skis on scheduled times, so they will disturb the snow as little as possible when they take their measurements.
They have some instruments in that perimeter that collects air samples that certainly is the purest of the planet along with Antarctica.
As we have to collect scientific materials, they will surely come to pick us up from the base. We look forward to meet the base from inside. Until that time comes , we celebrate our arrival up here, where if there were stars they would touch with their hands. So we are under that permanent sun that now reigns in the Arctic and with the Danish liquor that has brought Karin and whose name is difficult to pronounce We keep it for special occasions …
Three suns at Greenland Ice Summit gates
When you read our post, we will probably be at the Greenland Ice summit, to where the wind sled has brought us. Right now we are at 3,150 meters above sea level, just a few kilometers from the American scientific base “Summit Camp”. There is nothing in hundreds of kilometers around apart from ice and snow. And wind, the fuel that has allowed us to get here leaving no traces than the lines of the wind sled rails on the surface. We have already traveled more than 700 kilometers, 250 of them in an epic journey, the thirteen hours we did during last Wednesday night after 10 days of small steps and stops. As mentioned in the previous post, we have a weather that has stoped us from reaching where we are with the convoy as it was designed . And it wasn’t so much because it had not been possible, it was because once separated we have taken different rhytm due to unforeseen storms. But we have arrived where we wanted and with 2,000 kilos of load. Furthermore, despite these difficulties, we were able to collect data on snow and radiation from cosmic rays, which are our scientific objective. We have had many holes in the surface, and the muon detector which set us Juanjo Blanco, of the University of Alcala de Henares, doesn’t stop working. We hope that all these measurements will help scientists understand why the Arctic climate is changing so much, Something that this year is really spectacular.
Llevamos quince etapas, pero el cansancio acumulado no logra empañar nuestro ánimo, acompañado de la belleza que nos rodea. Esos atardeceres y amaneceres en los que, por un efecto de la luz llamado parhelio, llegamos a ver tres soles en el horizonte, y a menudo más de un arco iris al mismo tiempo. Navegamos a 20 km/h por esta llanura sin fin con la sensación continua de que estamos en otro planeta.
Our intention when we get to the US base Summit Camp , What the six expeditionary expect to do together in the next few hours is to visit, if possible, and collect material that has left us there the scientist Jason Box. Then we will do holes up to 15 meters something that has never done before. We know that on Friday Manuel Olivera and Miguel Herrero were leaving from Spain , two of the three that will make over in the sled when we get near the east coast. The third one, the Greenlandic Malik Milfeldt, will be joined in Isortoq. They probably will have to walk about 60 kilometers to reach the meeting point, following a common path for many expeditions. We have done fifteen stages, but the accumulated fatigue can not damped our spirits, accompanied by the beauty around us. Those sunsets and sunrises in which, by an effect of light called parhelio we saw three suns on the horizon, and often more than a rainbow at the same time. We sailed at 20 km / h by this endless plain with the continuous feeling that we are in another planet.
The crazy weather in Greenland: A 43º C of difference in one day
Weather forecasts are failing in Greenland. The weather is chaotic, the wind veer as we we have neverseen before. And it is creating difficulties in the Ice Summit expedition with the Ramón Larramendi’s Windsled. The latest, a new and unexpected wind and snow storm that catch us unaware, and it is the second one in this trip. After the last important advance, we stayed three days stopped with dead calm, a time that we used to make scientific tests, such as holes in the snow, and looking for the datum we have planned. On that side, all was ok, except for an instrument that requires too much energy and we can’t use.
But the weather goes crazy. With temperatures of 15 ° C sunshine day to -28 ° C night. 43 ° C of difference. And with a wind that is not good for our direction . Therefore, on Monday we decided to split the convoy again into two teams, easier to handle them with the kites on the side. So that we sailed very well, with the two sleds in parallel, going through the ice at 15km / h.
Against all predictions, another great blizzard suddenly started, with winds of more than 60km / h. And we losted sight one to each other . We also lose the comet sight , which was too big for that gale. We put on a dangerous 45 km / h at a time. It was obvious that we need to down the kite, a complicated operation, and again it flew away, but this time … three kilometres away! It has never gone so far before. “So Nacho and I went after the kite –says Ramón Larramendi-. Before that we took with GPS the Sled position, where Karin was. We couldn’t see anything. To top it all off, we went with navigation clothes , very warm, and it difficulted our movements, but we had to find it. After a while and following the trail in the snow left by the kite lines, like bloodhounds, I told Nacho that if up to 3,000 meters we couldn’t find it, we had to go back.We sweated a lot and there was a risk of becoming dehydrated, although we were at -15 ° C and with a cold wind. When we were about to turn around, We found the kite at 2,950 meters from the Windsled. You can imagine the joy. But the six kilometers walk in these conditions left us exhausted. ”
Ignacio Team had to stopped with the store too, about six kilometres from the other group . They had another problem, one kite ripped, we still don’t know how, and they stopped to repair it.
Before this mess, which broke our good rate , we’d had in the Ramon Sled an unexpected visit that left us perplexed: a lonely bird, like a sparrow, went suddenly into our locomotive tent. How could he get here, over 200 kilometers from the coast, something so small? Right away we gave him some food and heat it. He let himself be stroked. Something so fragile in such an inhospitable place …. finally he died, we think because he was exhausted.
Now we have to dig the sled from the snow with a shovel, melt something to drink and prepare a smaller kite than the one we brought, with a shot of 150 meters, also shorter. A wind of 40km / h is still blowing. We must continue forward. Our colleges follow us close by.
Blizzard aboard the Windsled in the heart of Greenland
The Blizzard took the Wind Sled Kite out of us. With its controls and lines ( his three hundred meters of ropes ) flew about 100 kms / hour. It was a much stronger storm than we expected. It started at the turn change of the convoy commandered by Oficialdegui Ignacio and his team (Hilo Moreno and Vicente Leal) and it was speed up until they could not stand it anymore. With zero visibility by the falling snow , it was impossible to find , so while others were trying to sleep , exhausted, with the movements of the tent, the trio fought to secure the equipment. And all the vehicle withstand the blow , so we continue on this Greenland Ice Summit Expedition 2016 towards the Arctic Summit As soon as the very powerful katabatic wind calmed down, Ramon and Karin went to look for the kite. Losing it would be a tremendous problem, so that at three o’clock in the morning they got up and … they were so lucky that we still can’t believe it. It was less than a hundred meters away, something buried in the snow but visible. With the controls and the three hundred meters of lines. It took a long time digging the snow from the sled, which was completely buried after the storm, but is now operational and we plan to keep going, with no tiem to loose. We have traveled 250 kilometers and we are already at 2,030 meters altitude. When we write, the wind is in our favor, although this may change in a few hours.We must say that Ramon is delighted with the the vehicle’s operation . “To manage the four modules Wind Sled is the same as with smaller prototypes. In fact, it does not seem so great in this immensity, but it is the same as the huge one that was in Madrid. This shows that it is possible for scientific expeditions.”Nacho Garcia, who is the first time participating in an expedition of this kind, recognices that he is enjoying: “I had seen many videos, but take the controls and feel sail is totally different, it is like you’re driving a West stagecoach, but polar, and yet, it’s like a sailboat in which you hear the creaking of the wood and wind while surfing even sleeping in the big tent is great , but not so much in the locomotive module, it is like compare.. a suite with a hostel “.He adds: “And the best part is to feel the spend days and days alone, feeling insignificant in the grandeur of what surrounds us.”Well, just we finished melting snow for a coffee. Until the next connection!
The wind sled cross lakes in the Ice dessert of Greenland
In an expedition it is difficult not to have surprises. And in the Greenland Ice Summit 2016 the Wind Sled team have had many changes not expected in the last days. And it is because the melting ice is so spectacular inside Greenland that as slowed us from the beginning. That has come two months early, just in the same coordinates as Ramón Larramendi has visited in another expedition in 1986. There is water in May where he saw it in almost July. Yesterday, we were about 1,700 meters of altitude and sailed over a frozen lake that one or two days before we could not probably have crossed because the temperature were near zero degrees . Now it is down to -10 ° C. Much better for us.
The first day,s the snow was so heavy and soft that it was impossible to move the 2,000 kilos convoy with kites, so we divide the four modules in two vehicles. It is another advantage of the WindSled: its versatility. And of course, this division took us some time, as it had to restructure all equipment (food, kites, communications …) into two parts with three expeditionary each.
The idea was to go close to each other to reach 2,000 meters of altitude, about 600 meters above the place where we started, and in an area without risk of finding water. To sleep, the trio led by Ramon took the locomotive module, a special design of Altus that has been spectacular. The other group, with Ignacio Oficialdegui as the pilot, the living space module.
But trying to go together didn’t last long , as we soon lost sight. The surface of the interior of Greenland is full of sastrugis, ice dunes generated by the wind and difficulted us from seeing each other, so we finally decided to set coordinates above us and meeting there for not waste so much time. In fact, at the end of Sunday, we just moved 15 kilometers. Now, on Tuesday night, the sled with Ramon has come to this destination in the middle of nowhere. Tuesday was a great day for his team. Driven by a strong wind of 50 km / h, they had traveled 156 kilometers in just 10 hours. And it has done non-stop, with a 30 square meter kite whose shot had to be on one side, at 75 ° angle, to maximize the wind eolic energy. Only the frozen lake put them in alert. How can be found to a 1,700 meters above sea level in the Arctic? It is really worrying. The other sled, wearing a smaller kite, thanks to satellite positioning system is known to be about 25 kilometers, and it wont’t stop until the reach the meeting point. Then we will be single convoy again and the Ice Summit expedition retrieve the initial configuration to reach their objective.
Sailing in the Arctic ice immense solitude
At the time you read this post , we’ll be surfing the immense solitude of Arctic ice. Propel by the wind for twenty of the twenty four hours of the day. On Thursday afternoon , an helicopter dropped us at 1,400 meters above sea level. The sixth of us and our Windsled. We were like insignificant fleas in the immaculate whiteness around us.The last hours before our departure were a real maelstrom. The night before we had to redo 500 knots from the Windsled due to a rope that slid more than expected. Even Mike McFerrin, from the prestigious research center CIRES NOAA and the University of Colorado, helped us in the task. In Kangerlussuaq a new scientific expedition project have joined us to the Greenland Ice Summit 2016, This project is carrying out by McFerrin and Jason Box from the University of Denmark, to assess the climate change effects in the Arctic. We’ll have to drill up to 15 meters deep, when we were planning to do it just thought a meter! We will collect the necessary instruments in the scientific base Summit Camp, in which we will pass in a few days. After a quiet one-hour flight, we arrived at the starting point and we got on with it immediately to assemble the vehicle, a task that took us nearly seven hours. And we began to sail when it should be at night … and it wasn’t. Here, the sun goes down, but the light always remains. Our intention was to spend twenty hours underway, with two navigation teams that will rotate in the control of the kites, one team is led by Ramon and another one by Ignacio Oficialdegui, an experienced Winsled pilot. The Danish Karin also knows how to handle it well. And the rest of the team will have to learn on these first days. We start with good spirits. We know that the challenge is complicated, that to carry 2,000 kilos of weight uphill is not easy, but we also know that we have a tremendous illusion to achieve our goal. The wind blows strong. Let’s go!
Kangerlussuaq (Lat: N 67º 009 ‘ Long: W -50º 43’)
Group leader, Ramón Larramendi, Ignacio Oficialdegui, Vicente Garcia Leal and Nacho were travelling form Madrid, in the Danish capital Hilo Moreno and Karin Moe Bojsen were waiting for them, as well as our well packaged wind vehicle. As we sat on the plane, we feel a great relief, after weeks of genuine maelstrom in preparations trying to solve unexpected and unavoidable last-minute problems.
In our first Danish night, we had diner with the prestigious American glaciologist Jason Box, from the Geological Service of Denmark and Greenland, one of the world leading climate change researchers at the poles . He informed us about the latest news of the ice state in Greenland, and we explained him the details of the three scientific projects we have in this expedition.
On Monday we landed in Kangerlussuaq, on the west side of the Arctic island. Despite knowing that this year the thaw has come early we were not prepared for what was waiting for us in this town, the closest to our starting point. The heat is almost overwhelming. In fact, during the day we were in short sleeves, and sweating as we started to prepare the sled. These are the worst possible news: in April there have been 4 ° C above average, according to NASA. It is not only what it means for the global climate that the Greenland ice cap were melting weeks earlier than usual, but because we can find water where there should be ice, and the wind sled obviously doesn’t float. We will take about 2,000 kilos of load uphill. And we expect to do 2,000 kilometers dragged by kites.
We’ll move to the Ice area on Thursday 19 th with a helicopter that will leave us about 1,300-1,400 meters above the sea level, next to our vehicle and all the equipment.
What awaits us up there? What we will find on the way once our journey starts? For now, they are unanswered questions and with very much concern.