Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

GrIT Update: Nearly Home

The GrIT crew passed through NEEM (pictured here from the 2011 GrIT expedition) last week before continuing onward to Thule. They're expected to arrive on Monday June 2. Photo: Pat Smith

The GrIT crew passed through NEEM (pictured here from the 2011 GrIT expedition) last week before continuing onward to Thule. They’re expected to arrive on Monday June 2. Photo: Pat Smith

The GrIT operations team is nearly “home.” After making impressive mileage all last week, the team was approximately a day away from Thule, according to Project Manager Geoff Philips. All indications suggest the team will reach Thule Monday June 2, as reported below in this Situation Report excerpt:

Grit is on the final leg of their return trip to Thule. This morning they are at Waypoint B11 loading up the SAGE traverse equipment on their sleds.

The crew stopped Saturday at Benson 1-10 to cut the wire, as requested, on the SAGE weather station. They were not able to get to the station (ID 5) because of deep, soft snow.

As the team nears Thule, they've encountered significant snowstorms, similar to the one pictured here from 2011, which are slowing their progress. Photo: Pat Smith

As the team nears Thule, they’ve encountered significant snowstorms, similar to the one pictured here from 2011, which are slowing their progress. Photo: Pat Smith

The traverse has been making impressive mileage the last few days. Their best day yet logged 73 miles in one day. It may be the proximity to civilization or the decreasing elevation, but they are hoping to pull into Thule on Monday afternoon, June 2. Unfortunately, they are now running into falling and blowing snow causing whiteout conditions and some of the deepest fresh snow the crew has ever seen on the ice cap. They are reporting snow billowing off the front of the tractors like a bow wave on a boat. They’re also reporting that the spreader bar is sinking below the surface of the snow. These conditions are likely to slow them down as they will need to double haul sleds through this snow.

The Demobilization crew has continued preparing the transition and warehouses for the arrival of all the equipment. This work has been wrapping up and the crew has started doing light vehicle maintenance. They’re also cleaning up the DRMO trucks for science use later this summer.

The team burrowed into this impressive underground storage area at NEEM. It's made entirely of snow. Photo courtesy: GrIT Team

The team burrowed into this impressive underground storage area at NEEM. It’s made entirely of snow. Photo courtesy: GrIT Team

It’s been a tremendous trip for the GrIT crew. Earlier last week they arrived at NEEM, where they parked the sled and tractor that will winter over for use next year to relocate the camp to a site called NEGIS. The crew also photo documented the camp facilities and sleds, and burrowed into an underground storage trench to take measurements for JP. It was an impressive underground storage space made entirely from snow.

The Arctic Research Support and Logistics Program within the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs funds the Greenland Inland Traverse. 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 2014 spring traverse delivers fuel and cargo to Summit Station, continues efforts to optimize mobility, and provides a research platform for Zoe Courville’s NSF-funded scientific research project.

Monitor GrIT and SAGE progress here. 
Follow the SAGE science traverse via their blog. For more field notes coverage of GrIT, click here.