Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

A day on KNS glacier

In August, Susan Zager, CPS project manager, visited Nuuk, Greenland, and spent a day with researchers Martin Truffer and Mark Fahnestock (University of Alaska) as they wrapped up an NSF-funded study of Kangiata Nunata Sermia Glacier (KNS).

1. Mark Fahnestock; 2. Fahnestock (left) and Truffer disassembling a seismic station; 3. The edge of the Kangiata Nunata Sermia (KNS); 4. Truffer consulting with the helicopter pilot on the next stop; 5. The Bell 212 transports researchers and equipment from Nuuk to areas inaccessible by boat; 6. Icebergs lay stranded after a lake drained; 7. A crevasse showing the blue ice beneath the dust-coated top of the glacier; 8. A hint of fall colors in August; 9. Caribou near a GPS site; 10. Bright reds in the tundra grasses; 11. Fahnestock (left) and Truffer taking down a GPS station and the solar panels that powered it; 12. The high walls lining the fjords. Photos: Susan Zager


“It was Sunday, the last day of the helicopter charter which had already been pushed around by weather,” Zager recalls. “The fog retreated and eventually gave way to a flawless afternoon – clear skies, no wind, and jackets-optional. We left Nuuk behind in the big red (with white polka dots) 212, and followed the zigzagging fjords toward KNS — one unbelievable view after another. The study sites were in vastly different landscapes and we landed on tundra, ice and rocks, as Mark and Martin gathered up equipment. At one site, two caribou ran off as we flew in — but the curious pair returned before the rotors had even stopped spinning to check us out. At the last site, the glacier’s rumbling sounded like a construction zone and I caught sight of a huge chunk of ice falling into the water and bobbing up and down as the waves rolled out in slow-motion. Truly an unforgettable day!”

KNS  jolted to life a few years ago, spilling ice into the fjord and catching the attention of Greenland researchers, who have been studying the fjord for a decade. Truffer and Fahnestock worked with colleagues from Greenland’s Institute of Natural Resources to investigate specific causes of this speed up—and its impact on the ice sheet that feeds it with Spring/Fall trips to attend to time-lapse cameras, GPS, and seismic instruments —collecting information on the KNS and the fjord.

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