[July 6, 2011]
With the news that we couldn’t fly on Tuesday or Wednesday, we decided to get some science done! After waiting around the Air Greenland hanger for 5 hours on Tuesday morning, we spent the afternoon in the warehouse testing and organizing gear for Lee’s work around the ice margin. Lee is interested in studying the history of the ice sheet margin over the past 10,000 years and the climate changes that occurred during that time period.
We woke up bright and early and, armed with our new mosquito nets and 98% deet bug spray, hiked to the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. We were all excited as it was the first time any of us had set foot on this great body of ice. Additionally, Eric spotted a plethora of roots protruding from a recently exposed shelf of ice. We collected some of these roots and examined vegetation on the ground, as well.
Erich checking out the vegetation at the margin.
Lee will run carbon tests to determine the age of the vegetation trapped in the ice and, thus, piece together part of the ice history on the margin. She also collected a few rocks for cosmogenic nuclide analysis, which also constrains age. After stopping for lunch near waterfalls, we hiked back to the truck and set off on to check out some lakes that Lee is interested in coring.
The edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
A basic map of Thule AB and the surrounding area was all we had to navigate, but, after a few wrong turns, we were confident we were on the road to the fjord with two large lakes. However, we were stopped by large barrels in the middle of the road and instead took a long, circuitous route under power lines (only to discover later that the road with the barrels was, indeed, passable and we probably could have saved the hour or two we spend bumping down the poorly maintained dirt road with high voltage warning signs). The lakes did, indeed, seem ideal for Lee’s work, and she and Erich planned some logistics and scoped out some areas for rock samples, as well.
After checking out the lakes (and panicking briefly when the truck was stuck in mud miles from base), we scrambled down to the coast where we waded in the Arctic Ocean, rode icebergs (yes, literally), and spotted a few seals!
Playing on an iceberg in the fjord near Thule.
We thought we’d had all of our excitement for the day when we were sitting down for dinner at the base dining hall, but then we were informed that we were in lockdown because a polar bear and her two cubs had wandered onto base! Apparently, this happens only rarely, but the protocol is to lure the bears away from base or, if they don’t leave and get aggressive, shoot them. Fortunately, these bears had the good sense to leave quickly, but their presence worried us since we had been informed that bears wouldn’t be an issue in the Thule region in July. Eric and Erich spent the evening procuring a gun for our time on the ice, just in case a polar bear happens to walk into our camp there!