Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

GrIT Situation Report 1

March 7, 2016GrIT_logo_2016

Welcome to the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) Situation Report.  This report is designed to provide progress updates throughout the field season. In cooperation with the Government of Greenland, the NSF funds and manages much of the U.S. research effort on the world’s largest island.

The GrIT team arrived in Greenland in early February and has been at Thule Air Base preparing for the traverse to Summit Station for the past month. In addition to the traverse team, a support crew has been assembling sleds, preparing cargo, fuel, and food, and doing everything necessary to get the traverse out the door.

Our Strategic Crevasse Avoidance Technicians (SCAT) team kicked off the FIELD season earlier this month by heading out to find a safe route through the 60 mile heavily crevassed zone.

The path to the ice cap, from Thule Air Base on the left edge of the image through the crevasse zone. The red line shows the 2014 route. The SCAT team used ground penetrating radar to ensure that the heavy GrIT tractors could proceed safely through this very active part of the ice sheet edge. This image makes a useful reference for the SCAT progress updates to come over the next days.

The path to the ice cap, from Thule Air Base on the left edge of the image through the crevasse zone. The red line shows the 2014 route. The SCAT team used ground penetrating radar to ensure that the heavy GrIT tractors could proceed safely through this very active part of the ice sheet edge. This image makes a useful reference for the SCAT progress updates to come.

SCAT UPDATE:

The SCAT team began day trips out of Thule on March 1.  Initial imagery analysis showed possible areas of concern around the B0 and B1 areas; however, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) imagery did not identify anything significant. We think the heavy snow year has acted in our favor, filling the areas of concern. The crew successfully profiled multiple cracks, using findings gained from holes drilled into the ice to verify GPR data. A route to their first camping site (B3) was confirmed, and the team departed for the overnight portion of their trip one day ahead of schedule on March 7.

GRIT PREPARATIONS UPDATE:

While the heavy snow year has helped fill in crevasses, it has also filled in work spaces and covered roads, requiring a lot of digging and snow removal. We are constantly shoveling out from the night time snow drifts, and often digging our way out of drifts along the road to get to work.  Nevertheless, the weather has been fairly cooperative, hovering in the +15 to -20F range, with only a few days of difficult 20 – 40kt+ winds in total.  The operators have done a great job preparing the site.

Upon arrival in early February, there was very little snow on the ground, which is required to move our sleds.  We have learned to become snow farmers, harvesting snow from nearby deposits (both intentionally placed, and from natural features) and have re-worked the pad to provide ample coverage for our work space.

The crew has made amazing progress in assembling the Air Ride Cargo (ARCs) sleds that will haul Summit materials. It is difficult work in the cold temperatures, and the black plastic HMW (high molecular weight) sled material that is used is extremely slick, stiff and hard to work with in the cold. Attaching bolts to the rubber pouch material and the hard HMW plastic material requires a lot of fine motor skills.

Last week the team moved the Summit Mobile Garage (SMG) floor panels out to the transition work site where the crew will assemble them into cargo decks that will ride on top of the pontoon system. These floor panels are to be used at Summit Station for a new facility; however, we will transport them as part of our decks as well as part of our cargo.

For more information on the GrIT, please visit these links:
Tracks and current locations: http://datatransport.org/grit

Download the data:   http://datatransport.org/trackers/group/GrIT

–Julie Raine, GrIT Manager

The Arctic Research Support and Logistics Program within the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs funds the GrIT. CH2M HILL 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 fuel and 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.