Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Making progress, GrIT prepares to forge ahead to Summit on previously untraveled route

After dealing with a series of mechanical issues, the GrIT team has resolved the majority and is making great progress. The team is resourceful, equipped, and experienced. In this picture from 2012, Robin Davies prepares for some field welding out on the ice sheet. Photo: Shep Vail

After dealing with a series of mechanical issues, the GrIT team has resolved the majority and is making great progress. The team is resourceful, equipped, and experienced. In this picture from 2012, Robin Davies prepares for some field welding out on the ice sheet. Photo: Shep Vail

The teams are well on their way for the 2014 overland Greenland traverse. After launching last week, the team has encountered softer snow than expected and a few mechanical delays. By the end of this week, the GrIT operations and SAGE research teams expect to arrive at an important juncture. GriT Project Manager Geoff Phillips discusses the teams’ progress in his April 16 report, excerpted below.

The Traverse crew continues to make labored progress toward Summit Station. Although they are not following the exact 2012 route, they are running parallel and close to it. Using the mileage from the 2012 traverse through this section. They are maintaining almost the exact same pace, with one big 40-mile day where they can tow their own loads. The rest have been around 20 miles with a lot of double heading. If this pattern holds true for the next two days, they will remain on the same pace as the 2012 schedule. They are predicted to arrive at Waypoint Benson 2-70 on Friday, two days behind schedule.

This is the waypoint where they will take a significant detour from the 2012 traverse. The gradient should level out after this waypoint and ideally bring better towing conditions.

The team reports fighting a slight gradient along with softer snow than expected. Jim Lever recommended putting the cargo sleds in the lead so they travel over fresh snow, a solution the crew is trying.

The ARCS sled had the crew slightly worried for a couple days, as the metal bar that acts as the connection between the decks and the sidewall pouches started to slide out of position. They were able to reposition the two bars that had moved and tie them in using a different knot that will secure the bar in place. They were also concerned about the pouches under the Summit Berthing module that appeared to be sliding out from under the deck by about 10″. Geoff was able to describe the connection that holds the pouches in place, as they are not visible once assembled. The group suspects there may have been enough play in that connection for the 10 inches of movement. Jim Lever has been contacted, and the crew will continue to monitor the pouches.

The mechanical issues described in the last report have all but vanished! The team has been able to focus almost entirely on making miles and has had no significant equipment troubles in the last few days.

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.

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