Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

GrIT Situation Report 7

16 May 2016
In and Out of Summit Station

GrIT team looking well-rested after a short respite at Summit Station. (L-R) Ben Toth, Galen Dossin, Robin Davies, Pat Smith. Photo: Kaija Webster

GrIT team looking well-rested after a short respite at Summit Station. (L-R) Ben Toth, Galen Dossin, Robin Davies, Pat Smith. Photo: Kaija Webster

The Traverse arrived at Summit 08 May and departed 15 May.

Battling All the Way

The crew endured a few rough days prior to reaching Summit. Snow conditions caused a loss of traction, requiring the tractors to crawl along at 3 mph.  Although the GrIT crew said they did less double-hauling on the last leg into Summit than in previous years, they still made slow progress with the snow conditions and load configurations. Continuing the 4th crew member on the night shift allowed the men to keep forward momentum and they leap-frogged the cargo at night to stay on track.

Within 70 miles of Summit, the Case 500’s turbo failed due to an improperly factory-installed nut, which worked its way loose and jammed into the turbo vanes.

The Case in the shop at Summit. Photo: Robin Davies

The Case in the shop at Summit. Photo: Robin Davies

The GrIT team repaired the Case, but a hydraulic leak developed days later. Undeterred, the team made some field welds, and finished the journey, arriving at Summit mid day on 8 May. The ailing Case went into to the shop almost immediately.

Summit Off and Onload

Weather took a turn, with whiteout and north wind conditions limiting and/or preventing work (because north winds blow Summit’s air “footprint” into the clean snow sector, we avoid running machines in those conditions).  The mechanics completed full vehicle checks while many GrIT tasks waited for better weather. Once the winds shifted, the GrIT team and Summit staff unloaded the various cargo packages.

To help with cargo offloading, the Summit group built a snow berm, the GrIT vehicles were positioned alongside, and the top layer of cargo removed. The team then shaved down the berm to make it even with the next layer, pulled that cargo off, and so on.

The group worked for several days, and everything was offloaded successfully, including some big cargo pieces as shown in the pictures just below.

Next, the crew recovered a GrIT tractor and sled that had wintered outdoors at Summit and prepared it to return to Thule. It took several days to dig out the tractor and cargo sled, and then another to thaw the vehicle enough to start it. Since it wouldn’t hold a charge, the mechanics replaced an alternator–a small cost for wintering outside in -80F degree temperatures.

On the horizon, the pile of snow moved to dislodge the sled and tractor. Impressive! Photo: Robin Davies

On the horizon, the pile of snow moved to dislodge the GrIT sled and tractor. Impressive! Photo: Robin Davies

Heading Back to Thule

At first, the GrIT vehicles moved along well, at about 6.5 to 7 mph.  Unfortunately, after several hours, the Tucker operator noticed an oil leak on the vehicle’s front axle. Upon inspection, the GrIT team found iron filings clinging to the magnetic tip, indicating the Tucker’s pinion bearing had collapsed.

The fuel sled loaded for the return to Thule. The Tucker was loaded on this sled. Photo: Robin Davies

The fuel sled loaded for the return. The Tucker was loaded on this sled. Photo: Robin Davies

The Tucker is tuckered out, so it rides as cargo the remainder of the journey.

The crew is carrying fuel to support two research groups, so GrIT will pause to place a fuel cache at a designated site en route to Thule. Otherwise, it’s horse to barn, or GrIT to Thule. Depending upon progress, the GrIT team estimates arrival at Thule between 27 May and 04 June.–Julie Raine

GrIT_logo_2016The Arctic Research Support and Logistics Program within the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs funds the GrIT. CH2MHILL Polar Services and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories are working together with the NSF to develop the traverse infrastructure and route to Summit Station. The 2016 spring traverse delivers cargo to Summit Station, and continues efforts to optimize mobility, GrIT will provide direct science support to several projects, retrieving instruments for a soon-to-be-completed effort, and laying fuel caches for upcoming projects. Follow GrIT’s progress here: http://datatransport.org/grit.