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May 28th 2017 : Latitude 67.83, Longitude -46.42, Altitude 1,923 m (6,309 ft), 54 km (33.5 mi)
We are still going at a good pace. The ice looks like a skating rink. Smooth and hard. Perfect. Yesterday, we finally stopped for a few hours to rest. We have not yet caught the rhythm of the shifts, but we are working on it. Two teams are going to take turns: in one Ramon and J. J., in the other, Hilo, Ross and Nacho, which requires that some get used to sleeping by day and others by night. Yesterday we began with a strong southeast wind, the best by our standards, and we progressed with a 30-square-meter (323 sq ft) kite dragging our 2,000 kilos (4,400 lbs) of weight uphill, to almost 2,000 meters (6,561 ft) of altitude. We reached 13 km (8 mi) / hour, too fast…Then we changed to the 60 square meter (646 sq ft) one, very hard to handle, until the wind lessened, and finally we returned to the 80 sq m (861 sq ft) kite and the speed stabilized at 7 km (4.3 mi) / hour. Slowly but surely.
We go so calmly and with so much control that we have even begun to cook food while on the go! That’s the kind of stability we have on board. The only difficulty we are encountering is the GPR. It requires so much power that we can’t get it to work as expected. Ross is working on obtaining the data planned by Francisco Navarro’s team.
The temperature is still good. By day, with a radiant sun and a lot of heat, and by night low, lower as we ascend. Last night minus 12 º C (10 º F). Also at night is when the wind gets stronger, so let’s take advantage of it.
Otherwise, we are getting into the routine. Enjoying the navigation.
No trace of life around us, with that sensation of being the only inhabitants on the ice…
May 26th 2017 : Latitude 67.01 Longitude -48.01
Too optimistic! After everything was ready for departure, the wind stopped. Totally. And with tremendous heat. In fact, we are in T shirt in the middle of the Arctic, several degrees above zero and with a radiant sun. That does not mean that we have rested …In the absence of navigation, and since everything is ready (especially the issue of connecting the batteries, which had us very busy) we have spent some time testing the drone with which Nacho García is going to record the expedition. There are spectacular images.
The worst thing the drone has discovered is that close by there appears to be something strange in the snow, which could be the fearsome crevasses we want to dodge. We’re supposed to be higher than last year and should not find them, so let’s hope it’s just an impression. Yesterday Hilo Moreno tried to approach the place to have more information than only by air, but as he was alone, he turned around. If anything, several people should go and strung up, for safety.
At the moment, all five of us perform tasks at the same time, but that will change in progress. The following days, each one has at least one task: Ramón Larramendi makes water out of snow; J.J. (Jens Jacob) is in charge of preparing the food; Ross Edwards accounts for everything that has to do with electricity supply; Nacho, documents the first few hours; And Hilo Moreno is in charge of the logbook and another thousand details.
Our companions of AEMet tell us that in a few hours we will have perfect wind, in power and direction, to get us to sail. Ramón is already saying: “As soon as it blows …. go ahead!”
May 24th 2017 : Latitude 67.01, Longitude -48.01
We’re already on the ice! The Greenland Air helicopter left us in the great Arctic glacier on Tuesday, at 1,500 meters (4921 ft) of altitude, in the late afternoon. Here, light does not go away: the Sun always remains in the horizon. We immediately set to work, without stopping. It was necessary to assemble the WindSled, with its cargo, to be able to take refuge, although it wasn’t very cold (minus 10º C, 14º F). Ramón believed that one day would be enough to organize the entire platform, but in fact it has taken us two days of intense work.
In fact, the biggest complications are the installation all the scientific devices with which we have to collect data along the journey, making sure that all batteries work, the solar panels are doing their job, that everything is in working order and well tied up so that no problems arise when the sled is advancing at a certain speed.
The truth is that not seeing water, crevasses or soft snow around… fills us with optimism. The conditions seem perfect and will improve as we ascend to the 3,200-meter ( 10,499 ft) elevation point we expect to reach in the days to come. We will keep on reporting!
May 23rd 2017 : Latitude: N 67 º 01‘ Longitude: W -50 º 73′ Kangerlussuaq
When you read these lines, we’ll be on the ice. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, weather conditions in western Greenland improved so that the helicopter that would leave us on the ice with the WindSled and all our equipment could take off. The last few days have been tense, fearing that our stay in Kangerlussuaq would be lengthened too much, subtracting days of travel and work, but fortunately it has not been so. There must be margin for unforeseen events, and we usually have them. Once on ice, the idea is to assemble the WindSled and the tents it carries. On each expedition it takes us less time, to start sailing as soon as possible. The most complicated issue will be the fine tuning of all scientific devices on board (air manifold, mobile weather station, GPR…).
In fact, the nearly 2,000 kilos (4409 lbs) we carry in total, fit smoothly in a medium-sized helicopter, as you may see in the image. And in less than 45 minutes we will be at departure location, given that the distance is relatively small.
After studying terrain conditions, we decided to take a 45 degrees northwest course for 300 kilometers (186 mi) to avoid a crevasse zone of at least 200 kilometers (124 mi) inside Ilulissat fjord. It is a detour to our destination, but crevasses are the principal danger that we face on our journey to the ‘ice river’, to the northeast. Let’s hope the wind is with us. The first few days we’ll go easy, since veterans must teach the novice (Ross Edwards and Jens J. Simonsen) to handle the WindSled. In fact, so far everyone has learned in a very short time.
Moments before the start, the five (Ramón, Ross, Nacho, Hilo and J.J.) of us couldn’t hide our emotion. But yes, always controlling that none of the many packages that we carry remain on land. Ramón was thinking about that yesterday when we took this picture…
Next blog entry, sailing on the ice!
May 22nd 2017 : Latitude: N 67 º 01‘ Longitude: W -50 º 73′ Kangerlussuaq
We are still stranded in Kangerlussuaq. Bad weather has settled in Greenland and does not allow us to go out to the ice. What a difference from last year! Back in 2016, we were at 20º C (68 ºF) in short sleeves, and now, polar cold which is not normal at this time of the year. In fact, it is snowing at times and the visibility is really bad so no flying by helicopter. We spent the day waiting, with everything packed, to see if there was a “window” of good weather that would allow us to start the expedition. In any case, if it were snowing up there, in the ‘inlandis’ it wouldn’t be a good time to ride the WindSled. Finally, it was not possible to fly today, monday. Once we finish our work the most interesting thing to do is share this small place with scientists who pass through the enclave. Practically everyone already knows about our expedition and they have heard of our eco-vehicle. As is always the case, in these unforeseen waitings, time stretches more than usual. But we have learned from our polar expeditions to remain calm in any situation. Tomorrow morning at dawn may be departure date…
May 21st 2017
At Kangerlussuaq airport there is a renown sign. It shows the flight hours from there to a number of cities or geographical points around the world. We are three hours from the North Pole, ten from Tokyo, four from New York and five from Russia. Here is where we wait patiently for the sky to clear and to begin the expedition itself. Yesterday could not be, because of the bad weather, and today neither. The forecasts tell us that Monday may be the day!
We must recognize the delay has been good for us, having too much preparation and very little time. Now, we feel a little calmer at the prospect of having a few more hours of work ahead. We must remain confident that these two days can be recovered without problems once we are in progress. But it is the normal thing in any expedition of this type: the plans always depend on nature who governs in these latitudes.
Kangerlussuaq means in Greenlandic “great fjord”, which is precisely what we have in front. This settlement emerged around the military airport that the Americans opened during World War II, and is still here. Also lately some tourism arrives, given that it is an area of great beauty and with much native fauna, although the vast majority of those who are here these days are polar researchers from different countries. It’s such a quiet place, there’s not much to tell about.
May 18th 2017 : Latitude: N 67 º 01‘ Longitude: W -50 º 73′ Kangerlussuaq
We already are in Kangerlussuaq. It is a hive of scientists, because from this enclave next to a US military base in Greenland, researchers who travel to the scientific bases of the interior during this campaign, meet. Many to the EastGRIP base, to which we will also go, but after traveling more than 1,200 kilometers (746 mi) … The first to arrive were Jens Jacob Simonsen, Ross Edwards and Hilo Moreno. The last ones, Nacho García and Ramón Larramendi. The latter, our expedition director, was shooting a TV documentary for North Greenland in Thule, and we hope he will arrive today.
As usual, we have tension until the last moment. Firstly because the airline lost our luggage, precisely the one in which the GPR (ground penetrating radar) was prepared by the glaciologist Francisco Navarro and his team. Fortunately it ended showing up on time. And secondly, because US security measures have increased, and we were required by the nearby military base additional paperwork to begin the expedition. The helicopter that should take us to the ice is already contracted for Saturday the 20th, so that’s a good thing.
Until the helicopter arrives, there are a lot of tasks pending. The main thing is to start assembling the WindSled, which is totally undone. We have already begun to join rails and sleepers in a field at the suburbs and little by little it is taking shape. It takes its time … Around us, every day new investigators ask about the vehicle which, in the beginning, they couldn’t imagine with so many possibilities!