WINDSLED BEGINS SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITIONTHE WINDSLED WILL DRILL THE LARGEST 'ICE RIVER' IN GREENLAND TO STUDY THE INCREASE IN OCEAN LEVEL ... Read more
WINDSLED IS CROSSING GREENLAND THIS SPRING!The WindSled traverses Greenland this spring on an expedition that begins its route next May 20. Du... Read more
THE DARK SNOW PROJECT BETS ON THE WINDSLEDhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAZD1WVCexg&feature=youtu.be Video Dark Snow Project: Fi... Read more
LATEST PHOTOS ICE RIVER EXPEDITION 2017!Larramendi and Ross Edwards ... Read more
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June 25th : Latitude N 67 º 01′, Longitude W -50 º 73′, Kangerlussuaq
The farewell moment, after the intense five weeks we have spent together – four of them in Greenland’s interior’s immense loneliness – is always difficult. Farewells commenced at the EastGRIP facility. Right on the same Hercules aircraft we, the # IceRiver2017 expeditionary, arrived on. We barely had time to comment our work and findings to our friend (and WindSled Project companion), Jason Box, for his Dark Snow Project. American pilots do not wait. The last view we had from the air was that of the base through front windows, as cargo planes do not have rear windows.
We felt very light in luggage. For the first time, there was no need to carry the WindSled back, since it had been safely stored at the EastGRIP’s warehouses. Once dismantled, it hardly occupies more than a bed size. Another of the advantages of our convoy. We explained this and other advantages, in detail, before departure date to all those EastGRIP scientists interested. We were surprised they had been following our expedition daily through this web!
From Kangerlussuaq, the final expedition destination, everyone has returned. The easiest was Jens Jacob, who lives here in Greenland and will move south for summer season. Ross Edwards flies to Copenhagen before returning to Wisconsin, United States, where he is a visiting professor from Curtis University in Australia. Hilo Moreno and Nacho García travel to Spain; and Ramon Larramendi, architect of this project, will go to Nuuk, the capital, before reaching his Greenland home in Qassiarsuk. There he will be receiving many world travelers, coming through Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions (expedition sponsor), who would like to journey and learn about Greenland in depth…
Nothing else for now … Until the next!
June 21st, 2017 : Latitude 75.63, Longitude -36.00, Altitude 2660 m (8727 ft), 28 km (17.4 mi)
We are already at the end of our scientific adventure. This is over… immediately after the reception at the EastGRIP facility, everyone here got about to their tasks and us to ours, which is basically dismantling the entire WindSled. Our intention is leaving it here until next year’s spring, when it is very possible a new expedition, with scientist Jason Box, will be accomplished. Still being on this expedition and we are already thinking of the next ! We are planning to leave some food here because having taken less time than scheduled, we have plenty left.
We also offered a ‘guided tour’ of the WindSled vehicle, parked a short distance from the EastGRIP facility. 36 scientists from 12 countries who have spent the summer here, are developing their projects, especially the Greenland Ice Core Drilling Project. We have seen how their expressions change from surprise (this always happens to us) to enthusiasm once we explain on location how it works. At present, EastGRIP houses some of the most renown polar researchers in the world. Moreover, some have already told us that the WindSled can be very useful for their projects, so we are very optimistic about the future. In addition, it is no longer about what Larramendi, its creator, or other expeditionary say. Now it’s reaffirmed by a well-known scientist, such as Ross Edwards.
Later on, as we had material, we organized a presentation where they were able to see how the vehicle had evolved over the last 17 years. With graphics, photos of other expeditions, drawings…Almost all of them were there.
For now we are waiting until tomorrow to be picked up by the American plane that will take us back to our starting point, Kangerlussuaq.
June 20th, 2017 : Latitude 75.63, Longitude -36.00, Altitude 2660 m (8727 ft), 28 km (17 mi)
We have arrived! After a month of intense crossing we have managed to attain scientific base EastGRIP, after being propelled by a propitious wind during the night. Several miles before arriving, they could already see our giant red kite in the air. And we are here! In addition, we were in time to enjoy a good dinner and a few beers. They even have a beer tap!
It was an awesome arrival. An absolute success! The vehicle has worked perfectly, practically no technical problems whatsoever. Ross Edwards, the only scientist in the crew, is thrilled that, with minor improvements, he has found the WindSled to be a fantastic platform for the development of scientific projects. All this would not have been possible without the sponsorship of a private company, Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions, and the support of the EastGRIP scientific base itself.
To enter the EastGRIP site we were given coordinates to advance avoiding a zone called ‘clean space’, entering without problems until we were at enough distance to lower the kite. They immediately sent a vehicle with a crane to tow us by pulling our eco-vehicle with a rope to the proximity of the base, and with the five still on board! Everyone came out to greet us! Under the current campaign there are 36 researchers from 12 nationalities (Australian, American, Japanese, German, Danish…), although many were still working at the time we arrived.
Afterwards, we dined as kings, meat and rice soup with tiramisu for dessert which we enjoyed immensely! But the absolute best was the hot shower, after a month and more than 1000 kilometers (621 mi) through the heart of Greenland, we were dreaming of that moment. Immediately after, we went to our tent to rest, without being aware of whether nor wind for the first time. By the way, everyone here sleeps in tents, although there is an enclosure where they may eat, work and rest.
Today mid-morning, already rested, we have been shown the facilities, especially the site of the 2500 m (8202 ft) in depth perforation to reach the base of the rock. They are currently at 450 m (1476 ft), so they still have work to do. Spectacular engineering work which we visit in more detail during the next two days here before the expedition is concluded. We also want to show our WindSled around to the 36 EastGRIP researchers, so they can assess first hand all the advantages it entails.
Thanks to this polar mobile research platform, the WindSled, we are really satisfied, very…
June 19, 2017 : Latitude 75.31, Longitude -36.80, Altitude 2743 m, 8 km (5 mi)
We’re close to the end and the EastGRIP base, although the last few days the winds have not been auspicious, but we had margin to reach the destination. On Saturday we left in the afternoon but advanced quite little. The wind was from the north and there was no way to progress some kilometers. Ross, once again and dressed in white, made another hole (as shown in the picture by Nacho). He explains to us that it is possible to determine if the snowfall in Greenland comes from Asia and the precipitation there has been before reaching its Arctic destination. It is impressive how much information can be obtained from a single sample of snow as all those he collects for Paul Travis Vallelonga and Jason Box.
The bad news is that, finally, we broke two of the 80 sq m (861 sq ft) kites that we brought along. They have lasted a good part of this expedition, but now we only have one. Luckily the route is only a stone’s throw away from the end. Otherwise, totally clear skies and the temperature is still good, diurnal of minus 3 º C (26.6 º F) and nocturnal of minus 21 º C (-6 º F). We are looking forward to arriving at EastGRIP to get a good hot shower, rest in a bed and to be able to relax on a sofa. All that is waiting for us!
June 16th, 2017 : Latitude 74.89, Longitude -38.02, Altitude 2834 m (9297 ft), 50 km (31 mi)
As we descend, the feeling of oxygen flow in the lungs becomes quite evident. Hilo is the only one controlling his vital signs, under a study on the impact of polar expeditions on human organisms, and we are eager to know what the result will be.
The descent from the summit has another beneficial effect, the vehicle is moving faster, so yesterday we covered another 50 kilometers (31 mi) and drilled yet another two snow holes. At some point we reached 18 km (11.2 mi) per hour, although the average is about 10 km (6 mi) / h, just perfect for this vehicle.
We continue with the kites’ technical tests and the design of new procedures to prevent them from being lost when they are released from the WindSled, as happened in last year’s expedition. It took many hours to recover a kite that was lost in the midst of a tremendous blizzard.
We also have more time to take care of gastronomy, so we set aside freeze-dried foods to enjoy the dishes prepared by Hilo and Nacho, habitual cooks on this expedition. Yesterday we even made some pancakes for breakfast. A luxury in the middle of nowhere.
June 15th, 2017 : Latitude 74.51, Longitude -38.93, Altitude 2902 m, 50 km (31 mi)
Impressive the weather we are having in Ice River expedition 2017. For Ramón, in more than 30 years of polar travel, he has never had such stable weather. Also, weather forecasts were never as accurate as this time, thanks to the work being done by three members of the State Meteorological Agency who collaborate with us. Other years we used international services, but they were not as accurate. In this expedition, their procedures for processing information are making life much easier for us in a place with such variable weather as Greenland. In general, stable temperatures and wind, almost never totally against, has made us advance in fewer days than expected! This, together with the fact that the WindSled has not had any mishap and has gone smoothly.
Yesterday we finally moved forward 50 km (31 mi) and drilled two more holes. We were at some distance from the coordinates of one of the holes, due to lack of wind, so Ross had to walk a little to arrive on location. As the snow is in such good condition, it was not laborious.
After many days without seeing anything except an empty horizon, yesterday we had the visit of a bird, a seagull that passed the morning with us and who we named Antonia.
As we are very close to the EastGRIP base we are already thinking about collaboration possibilities that could arise during the last days of expedition. Upon arrival, we will meet Paul Travis Vallelonga, scientist with the Ice2Ice project. We look forward to showing him data we have gathered and registered. It will surely bring light to the understanding of this ice current’s dynamics.
June 14th, 2017 : Latitude 74.17, Longitude -39.76, Altitude 2982 m (9783 ft)
One of the pending challenges is to reduce arm power to handle the kite, now that the convoy is so bulky and heavy. We were trying with levers, to which we hooked on the controls and a bar. Both ideas work in preliminary tests, so the matter now is that this arrangement works while the sled is advancing.
We also took advantage to weigh the snow we had accumulated in a single sled module. The result was more than 60 kg (132 lbs). So by solving this technical issue, we can get rid of the ballast.
Finally, we had the opportunity of trying out the small kites, which we haven´t used because they could not drag the convoy. The new idea is to raise one of them every day before departure to indicate what the real wind force and direction is, which is not the same as on the surface. This operation wouldn’t take us more than 10 minutes and would facilitate decision making. In short, given we have enough time, we will keep on rehearsing.
At present, nothing indicates that we are on the ice river, although the truth is that here we are.
June 13, 2017 : Latitude 74.14, Longitude -39.86, Altitude 2986 m (9796 ft), 50 km (31 mi)
This great picture of the parhelion is sent by Hilo. That’s how we live it! We are going at such a good pace that we have decided to slow down a bit in order to test the WindSled for the coming great Antarctica expedition challenge in 2018. We continue with totally upset schedules, sailing at “night” and then resting until mid-morning. Until we halted this morning we advanced 50 kilometers (31 mi) and drilled two more holes.
We arrived perfectly at the planned coordinates. Ross’s objective is to drill exactly in the same place done two years ago on another expedition – in this case, traveling by snowmobile – in order to ascertain how the current is moving when comparing between our findings and those previous ones.
We have not explained it, but in each hole we drill we reach snowstorm layers that fell between 12 and 15 years ago, a period long enough to detect interesting changes. Snow and ice are like a blank sheet of paper where everything that comes by is printed every time and what happened next (thaw, freeze…) too. It is curious to observe how the differences between some strata and others are noticed, depending on the changes. And one detail: now Ross drills without us having to lower the kite, which always takes us a long time. Do not forget that it is quite far from the WindSled, sometimes 300 m (984 ft) away, and lifting it is laborious.
Yesterday, we also recorded images with the drone that Nacho has brought for the documentary to be made at The Beagle Productions. And they are spectacular. We hope to be able to show some soon.
We will also advance in some tests we are thinking of doing these days, given the weather is good and the wind favorable. As the terrain is so smooth, we will recreate the sastrugi (uneven terrain) present in the Antarctica expedition, to check convoy resistance with the current weight, in very unfavorable conditions. We do so by shoveling high obstacles of accumulated snow, and then sailing over them. This trial and error can not be done anywhere else in Europe, so let’s take advantage, as long as time allows.
Moreover, this snow building is a physical activity that our Greenlander, J.J., seems to like. Every day, when stopping, he still builds a ‘toilette’ with blocks of snow.
June 11th, 2017 : Latitude 73.94, Longitude -40.11, Altitude 3012 m (9881 ft), 68 km (42 mi)
Finally, on the 10th after 42 mi we are at the highest point of this expedition, the ice river! It was a great moment, one of the milestones of this polar crossing, waiting for us on the other side of the Greenland central slope. There, Ross drilled a new hole but it barely took an hour and we did not even have to lower the kite from the sky. We are acquiring great abilities in time management.
So, about 20 kilometers (12 mi) later, we stopped to celebrate a real deserved party. For the occasion, yes, Ross drilled his second hole. The WindSled, piloted by Ramon and Hilo, halted close by to the coordinates our scientist had pointed out. More precision, impossible.
And the celebration was underway! With a Rioja wine which we brought for the occasion, music from the eighties (national and Anglo-Saxon) and, finally, a few laughs remembering the moments that brought us here, to the Ice River. As a gift, we had a spectacular show. A parhelion of three suns in the horizon, a result of an optical phenomenon that generates by refraction of light due to the large amount of ice particles that accumulate in cirrus clouds.
At the moment, the truth is we do not notice any change in the terrain, but Ross assures us that soon the relief will change. Right now, we still have about 250 kilometers (155 mi) to finish the expedition, although, these days, it is not a matter of progress but of accomplishing the scientific work that has brought us here. A hole every 20 kilometers (12 mi), approximately.
Follow us !!
June 10, 2017 : Latitude, 73.36, Longitude -40.87, Altitude 3052 m (10013 ft), 19 km (12 mi)
Fortunately in the end the storm was less than we thought. It snowed, but with little intensity so we could keep on moving, but slowly. In total, during the navigation day we covered 19 km (12 mi). It is not much, but it is very encouraging that almost every day we move forward. We progress an average of 12 km (7.5 mi) / h although we have had a peak of 27 km (17 mi) / h which with the weight that we carry, is not recommended. In past expeditions we reached 40 km (25 mi) / h, but the convoy was much lighter, and in fact the whole structure suffered much.
Our goal for this weekend is to reach the highest area, which we are already close to, and it is the dividing line of the slope with the Greenland great mass of inner ice. We will celebrate it as it deserves! At this point Ross will drill one of his holes and try to move on. The sun and heat, except for that small storm, is accompanying us throughout the journey, spectacular!
June 9th, 2017 : Latitude 73, 02, Longitude -41.52, Altitude 3009 m ( 9872 ft), 51 km (32 mi)
A storm is approaching, so yesterday we decided to continue without stopping while benign atmospheric conditions continue. Throughout the night we surpassed 3000 meters (9842 ft) of altitude and we are very close to the dividing line slope of the summit, precisely the place where the ice current, our destination, begins.
By the way, you will notice that the photos have little resolution, but it is not easy to send them from here, the system we use, via satellite, does not allow a better quality.
Another issue that we have discovered, thanks to the calculations elaborated by Ross Edwards, is that we are 300 kg (660 lbs) overweight! That’s pretty much. It’s the snow that accumulates on the sled between the rails where it deposits when we are in movement. We could not have imagined it was so much, but Ross did the math and that’s the surprising result. Obviously, solutions have to be sought, but they do not seem to be complicated.
Our researcher, who does not stop, has also devised a system that allows us to melt snow to have water without using the kerosene we bring. It basically consists of putting snow inside some special plastics in the tent, and taking advantage of the greenhouse effect. That will allow us to save at least half the fuel we spend per expedition. In fact, we are also thinking about how we could install an electric cooker that functions with solar panels. We would then be absolutely 100% zero emissions. In fact, the vehicle is, but we spend about 35 liters (1183 fl oz) of kerosene, which is really very little, to cook and have plenty of water, something that is fundamental to not dehydrate in the dry and chilly environment that surrounds us.
In the coming days, if the storm allows, we have to reach an exact coordinate between the divisory line of the slope and the inner Greenland glacier. This is where the ‘Ice River’ begins, and empties ice into the ocean. It will be a challenge to reach that location and the next without the wind diverting us. At the moment, we are about 60 km (37 mi) away and not moving.
Otherwise, nights are still cold, and the sky somewhat cloudy and overcast. In the distance we observe black clouds coming…The bird that visited this morning is no longer with us. He arrived exhausted, rested on the WindSled, ate, drank and, without us noticing, left. Where has it gone?
June 7th, 2017 : Latitude 72.58, Longitude -42.10, Altitude 2998 meters (9835 ft), 73 km (45 mi)
Ramón Larramendi is one of those explorers who, previously, likes to consult a map on paper to confirm GPS data. As such, the expedition is about to reach the interior’s highest elevation point. These last days have been somewhat irregular. On the 5th we ended up with no wind. Who would have guessed that with the “rhythm” we were carrying when we communicated with you! There was no choice but to stop for almost 24 hours, time that, once again, Ross Edwards, who is always prepared, took advantage for a new drilling in the frozen layer we move on. On this occasion, our scientist did not take as long as on previous occasions, that is, at times up to six hours extracting information where the vast majority of people only see an immaculate whiteness.
After the break, a gentle breeze coming from the south indicated that the scenario was changing…It did so we set off and advanced another 73 kilometers (45 mi), parallel to the Summit Camp base, which we attained with so much effort last year. Once we believe we are a little over 100 kilometers (62 mi) away, we have prepared a bottle of Ribera de Duero wine. An excellent wine for a great occasion!
Some will wonder how we spend time, since we pilot only one hour out of every five. Well, lately Ross Edwards has decided to learn Spanish, while taking advantage of the company, doing his exercises on a computer program and putting them to practice with us; Ramon, in the meanwhile, has Jens Jacob to remind him and improve his Greenlandic.
At the moment, the WindSled seems like a silent library, reflecting a smooth trip of about 12 km (7.5 mi) / h on average. The book readings are quite varied. Ramon is beginning “Comets in the sky” by Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini. Next in line “Who of us” by Mario Benedetti; Hilo Moreno has opted for the writings of a great polar explorer, “From Greenland to the Pacific”, by Knud Rasmussen, the first in traversing the Northwest Pass on dog sled; Nacho García is torn between his picture books and a novel about the Canadian Mounted Police; And J. J. is immersed in a classic novel: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
By the way, the temperature is still ‘cool’ at night, -28 º C (-18 º F), and pleasant by day -11 º C (12 º F).
June 5th, 2017 : Latitude 71.96, Longitude -42.75, Altitude 2902 m (9520 ft), 120 km (74 mi)
Great day! 120 km (74 mi) in 16 hours without stopping…The perfect way to celebrate the World Environment Day, wonderfully sailing through a great ice desert on the planet. Ice we hope continues as is and, concerning its situation, we want to know as we go. The fact is that everything is running smoothly… on rails. On Sunday morning the wind ceased and the kite collapsed shortly after we communicated. We take advantage to sleep, with an increasingly cool climate. Up to minus 27 º C (-16.6 F). Fortunately, the Altus equipment is top notch, and from here precisely come our recommendations. They are the best. Their materials neither break, nor budge and make us feel ‘almost’ at home.
After the stop, permitting a recess, the wind returned, direction south-southeast, and we began route to the following coordinates in which to re-drill snow. The first plan was to progress around 90 km (55 mi), but the wind increased and we decided to keep on going ahead, 16 hours non stop at about 12 km (7 mi) / h. We’ve already covered 620 km (385 mi) and are at the level of the scientific base Summit Camp which we visited last year. The convoy advances with the new 80-square-meter (861 sq ft) kite, the Show Kite Brothers one, with lateral strings to better take advantage of a wind that diverts off course, but allows us to move forward.
We are taking turns to pilot every hour, so every five its the turn. The best part is that there are no arrangements to be made, such as in the last expedition when we went from carrying 1,000 to 2,000 kilos (4400 lbs) and had to make some necessary adjustments to the WindSled, which worked perfectly. It is sheer joy to navigate this polar world, with a sun that doesn’t set in 24 hours, brilliant!
When we stop, everyone dedicates to their hobbies. Some read, others prepare audiovisual materials, and the local scientist, Ross, draws and sketches on how to improve the energy supply of the WindSled in order to be able to bring along more devices in the future. He’s excited.
At this rate we will soon arrive to the point in which the ice current begins, our ultimate destination. We will keep on reporting!
And a thought from the five crew members that should be heard everywhere: hopefully one day the World Environment Day will not be necessary because it will be the priority.
June 4th 2017 : Latitude 70.89, Longitude -43.30, Altitude 2697 m ( 8848 ft), 73 km (45 mi)
Got moving again! After two days of standing around, we began to lose our calm because the wind was bad, or simply non existent. These past two days, in addition to drilling, we tried all kites that we had not used or skied around…as there was little to do, since the WindSled is in perfect condition!
When the wind began to blow from the southeast, and although not perfect, we got into action. We set up the kite’s side strings which we had not used so far in the convoy, and it goes perfectly. This arrangement allows us to advance even if the wind is not the best for our direction. We went off course a bit, but nothing significant and fully recoverable later. If it continues like this, in two or three days we hope to reach the summit, at 3,200 meters (10498 ft) in altitude, advancing at about 8 km (5 mi) / hour.
We communicate as the WindSled is up and running on to the next location. Nacho García pilots it. The other night he gave us a fright when, during dinner, he choked and was breathless for a few seconds, that became eternal, once we realized what had happened to him. Nevertheless, it was just a scare.
Fortunately, the snow is still in perfect state. We are totally immersed in a polar environment, at minus 22.5 º C (-8.49 º F) at night, but clear by day.
Before beginning this stage, we spent a good time unearthing the sled from the snow, which the wind had deposited on it, increasing its weight considerably. All scientific instruments continue to collect data as planned. And we are all very excited, as shown in the photo, because, beyond adventure, our objective is to contribute with our effort to the study of a place where human presence is and has been anecdotal throughout the history of mankind. In addition, the team is really integrated making coexistence very easy.
We move on!
June 1st 2017 : Latitude 70.25, Longitude -43.6, Altitude 2577 m ( 8044 ft), 75 km (47 mi)
Complicated day! The first of the expedition Ice River Greenland 2017, but fortunately without consequences. The first problem arose when trying a new system to hook the kite to the sled, at the time the 45 sq m (484 sq ft) one, so as to avoid any possibility of loss when releasing it as occurred last year. In the attempt it broke on us so we had to change to the 60 sq m (646 sq ft) one. This made progression difficult in such a manner that two people were necessary to handle the controls. To take turns, given the effort, four of the crew had to stay in the front end piloting module… Suddenly, the second incident occurred, which could have been more important. Ross manipulated one of the solar panel batteries in the rear tent of the convoy when an electrical overload occurred that caused a mini-fire which filled the space up with smoke. He smothered it immediately with snow but it was a scare given the flammable material around.
After these incidents, the wind rolled east direction and we had to stop. In any case, in six days we have already covered half of the route, more than 400 kilometers (249 mi) to our first destination, the ice current. According to Hilo’s GPS we were half way so a stop was necessary . In addition, it coincides with one of the locations in which Ross must perform another drilling in the snow, which is exactly what he is doing while we communicate with you via satellite. He is dressed up in his sterilized suit, his mask … and he does not allow anyone approaching him to avoid contamination.
So while he focuses on science, Hilo sews the kite hole and the rest go on to review the platform, prepare water and run about our tasks! Our Greenlander, J. J., has built a bathroom with blocks of ice, which is great, as an annex to the sled. It is absolutely sustainable, because when we leave it will disappear…
The good news is that we have managed to send a small photo of our WindSled with all the technology installed. Since communications are not good, that task has taken a lot of time, even if you do not think so.
On the side, the GPR functions perfectly, something that the teams using the results (Antonio Quesada, Javier Lapazaran, Jason Box), are happy to know. The device has been collecting data from snow down to 20 meters (65 ft), for many miles. The weather station and the microorganism collector are also still active, which is what you see in the back of the image.
For the moment, here we are. Until a south wind drives us north! By the way, the anecdote is that during the last two days a seagull has followed us. It passes us, lies on the convoy to rest… The only life form we see around us.
May 30th 2017 : Latitude 69.58, Longitude -43.6, Altitude 2452 m ( 8044 ft), 86 km ( 51 mi)
Yesterday passed quietly. We are going at a measured speed of 11 km (7 mi) / hour, perfect to have a quiet life on board, which we hope will last. In fact, at the moment we are not doing complementary shifts because the current pace allows us to stop to sleep, which is greatly appreciated. Ross made another drilling in the snow yesterday, although he did not spend so much time. But yes, he dressed in his immaculate white suit, with mask … and returned to take out some snow samples, of which we are already carrying around 20 kilos (44 lbs), well stored in special containers so as not to melt.
The truth is that thanks to Ross we are all having an accelerated master’s degree on the latest Arctic and Antarctic related to climate change. As a polar climatologist (he has participated in numerous campaigns at the Australian Antarctica base), he knows the details of the different theories, hypotheses and methods. Let’s start taking notes! In short, a luxury.
The food, however, does not take long to make. J.J. and Nacho are currently the star chefs, the latter because he made Danish sausages and the former because of some really unforgettable Bolognese spaghetti. Most of the time though, we settle for some sausages, being much less laborious.
We are already close to the ice summit we arrived in last year, but not scheduled to pass by the scientific station Summit Camp, which we will see in the distance. If the wind continues this way, we are going to be at the Ice River much sooner than we expected!
May 29th 2017 : Latitude 68.86, Longitude -44.24, Altitude 2266 m (7434 ft), 131 km (81 mi)
After last year’s experience, not believing how good it’s going! Not a single problem…for now. We have already covered about 250 km (155 mi) and we continue with good wind. As planned in our scientific schedule, Ross Edwards made the first major drill of the route, the second taking into account the one at the beginning. We had to shovel dig a total of two meters (6 ft) in depth, task which Ross was determined to perform while the rest of the crew reposed after a hard day. Once the hole was made, our on-board investigator obtained much data on snow conditions: temperature, density, humidity…several parameters that are required by the Dark Snow project in which he works with Jason Box. We have also made the GPR work for a long time. The main problem being that it consumes too much energy and the batteries are exhausted quickly.
As we ascend, the winter feeling increases. At night we were at minus 17 ° C (1.4 º F), at an altitude of 2100 meters (6889 ft). And we still have to reach 3000 (9842 ft). During the day the sun has not accompanied us. The fog has settled around, as the surface becomes rougher, making the pattering of the rails sound more intensely, but fortunately without consequences for the mobile platform.
On a personal level, the group consolidates while struggling to adapt to two piloting shifts. Not easy because we have to completely alter the sleeping schedule, something not yet achieved, so we accumulate fatigue and take advantage of any moment to nap.
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 2000 kilos (4400 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 are in 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!