Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

GrIT Update: The Long Road Home

Anyone up for a snowball fight? The GrIT crew had to disentangle these giant-sized snowballs from underneath the ARCS pouches.

Anyone up for a snowball fight? The GrIT crew had to disentangle these giant-sized snowballs from underneath the ARCS pouches.

After a grueling month-long slog across 700 miles of ice sheet, the GrIT team pulled in to Summit Station on May 9. Seven days later they set out for the return trip home. They are currently two days out from NEEM, about 250 miles from Thule, and dealing with mechanical issues, writes GrIT manager Geoff Phillips in his latest update, excerpted below.

If you’ve been following the progress of the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT), you know the team has dealt with a variety of mechanical issues. Unfortunately the return trip is also experiencing similar challenges. The QMut tractor appears to be losing coolant, although no sign of burning or leaking is present. The engine will lose power when the temperatures creep above normal, and after adding more coolant, the tractor’s power and temperatures return to normal. This is being monitored.

The sleds were towing with unusual difficulty, requiring some on-the-road reconfiguration.

The sleds were towing with unusual difficulty, requiring some on-the-road reconfiguration.

The sleds were towing with unusual difficulty so the crew rearranged their configuration and loads in hops of picking up speed. This plan was successful with the tractors picking up a couple extra gears using the new configurations.

The fabric seam between the HMW sheets has apparently pulled its fasteners out, allowing snow to build up under the ARCS pouches. This, in turn, pushed the deck upward, which tore the sidewall away from the HMW. The crew used the knuckle boom to lift the deck and remove the 2-3’ diameter snowballs that had formed below. They had to remove the rest of the fabric pouch from under the rear-most deck so that any more snow that enters will flow out the back. This seems to be working, as snow no longer appears to be collecting under the ARCS.

GrIT Situation report 5-223

Rearranging sleds and loads are all in a day’s work for the hardworking GrIT team.

The GrIT demobilization crew arrived in Thule on Thursday. They will start organizing the warehouses, extending the Durabase parking spot at the transition, and moving snow drifts to make room for offload work at the transition and warehouse spaces. One bright spot is that snow at the transition is in remarkably good shape considering how late in May it is. There appears to be very little melting from when GrIT left. Large drifts have formed over certain spots of the work area that can be spread out if the snow starts melting, although it doesn’t look like that will be a problem now.

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.