The WindSled team, with the only zero emissions mobile scientific platform in the world, begins the scientific expedition ICE RIVER GREENLAND 2017, which will finalize on June 27th. For six weeks, its four members, led by the explorer, pioneer in Greenland and creator of the polar eco-vehicle Ramon Larramendi, will collect data and samples for six research projects in collaboration with international and national experts, to study climate change patterns in the Arctic. Both climatology and impacts.
On this occasion, besides Larramendi, the crew is formed by an international team: the Australian-American researcher Ross Edwards (Curtis University – University of Wisconsin); The logistician Hilo Moreno, who has already been in the 2016 expedition and has just returned from Antarctica; Audiovisual producer Nacho Garcia and Greenlander Jens Jacob Simonsen.
This expedition is possible thanks to the sponsorship of the travel agency TASERMIUT SOUTH GREENLAND EXPEDITIONS and support from EastGRIP GREENLAND ICE CORE DRILLING PROJECT.
The WindSled convoy participates in the expedition with its configuration of 12 meters (39ft) in length (divided in four modules) by 3.3 meters (10ft) in width, and driven by large kites. A unique vehicle inspired on Inuit tradition. It is a zero emissions highly efficient vehicle which has aroused the interest of the international scientific community. This expedition will carry 2,000 kg (4400lbs) of weight and will travel approximately 1,200 km (745mi) from Kangerlussuaq, on the southwest coast of Greenland, to the international scientific base EastGRIP, in the northeast. It will use wind, solar and kinetic energy for its operation and that of scientific devices.
The WindSled will be situated on the largest and fastest ice current in Greenland. A flow that advances from the interior towards the ocean at a rate of 100 meters (328ft)/ year and of which little is known concerning its characteristics. Its study is fundamental to acquire better knowledge on the impacts of global climate change: the rise of ocean levels. On that ice river, which names this expedition, and on a route of about 200 km (124mi) from the location the researchers of EastGRIP decide upon, 13 of the 17 drillings will be done at about 15 m (49ft) in depth. The rest (another 4), will be carried out during the next 1,000 km (621mi), from departure in west Greenland till arrival to the ice current.
Data and snow and ice samples (about 200 kg, 440lbs) will be collected for two international projects: Dark Snow (on ice pollution) and Ice2Ice (on Arctic ice melting). In the first one, the principal investigator is the North American Jason Box, Danish Geological Survey, along with Ross Edwards (expedition crew) and, in the second, the glaciologist Paul Travis Vallelonga, Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. Vallelonga emphasized that “the WindSled is a great innovation for polar science, because moving within Greenland is always costly and complex and with this eco-vehicle we have the opportunity to travel long distances without contaminating.”
In addition, during the crossing data will be collected thanks to a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that functions by solar energy and which has been adapted by the team of Spanish glaciologists Francisco Navarro and Javier Lapizaran (Polytechnic University of Madrid) for this expedition. The ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is capable of reaching 25 meters (82ft) in depth for the study of snow.
Another project on board the expedition has been designed by the Spanish biologist Antonio Quesada and his group (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid): an air manifold will be installed aboard the polar eco-vehicle prepared to collect microorganisms that could be colonizing in Greenland´s interior. This method has already been developed in Antarctica. The device has been designed to function with energy generated by the movement of the sled, always in search of maximum efficiency.
Also, within an investigation by polar doctor Daniel Pérez del Castillo, the vital signs of one of the expeditionary will be monitored. Lastly, three weather forecasters from the Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEmet) will provide weather reports and collect information on climate behavior in Greenland during the voyage and for future studies.
This is the first time the WindSled, created by Ramón Larramendi, becomes an international mobile scientific and technological platform from which the accelerated processes of climate change in the Arctic will be documented from.
At the EastGRIP base, a 2,550-meter (8366ft)-deep drilling is underway to study the dynamics of ice currents and climate over the past 8,500 years. The facility is funded by Denmark (56%), the US National Science Foundation (13%), Germany (9%), Norway (8%), France (8%), Japan (8%) and Switzerland (8%). Also contributions from China, Iceland, Italy, Sweden and South Korea.
“We are very satisfied with the WindSled’s evolution, as the scientific community is already aware of the possibilities that arise thanks to this convoy. We hope that one day it will contribute to additional polar programs, in such a manner to be made available to scientists who need it and, thus, allow us to be present in places and projects where today it is not possible because of the cost,“ Larramendi pointed out.