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Scientists in 380 kilometre haul over ice cap

Planned traverse of Greenland ice cap with 140 tons of equipment to a new drilling location is now underway

University of Copenhagen scientists and colleagues at the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) project have struck down their camp and are now crossing the ice cap to a new ‘EGRIP’ location 380 kilometres away.

This is according to the latest update from NEEM’s so-called field diaries. There is only limited internet and contact with the group.

“Finally, we are on our way. Even though we began early, the whole morning was spent doing service to vehicles, doing the last packing and arranging the sleds into trains. It requires a very special technique to line up four 7-10 ton sleds in a row to be hooked up,” the NEEM field diary reports.

The following day 18 May the field diary says that the team is moving on again after an overnight halt:

“We began late today (breakfast at 8) due to late arrival last night. Then several hours were spent reconfiguring the trains. In the meantime, the two slowest vehicles took off. Finally, the main train (two Pistenbullies and one CASE) could leave at 12. Reconfiguring helped, and we made good time without incidents (55 km)”, wrote Field Leader, J.P. Steffensen.

Field diary: “We began late today (breakfast at 8) due to late arrival last night” (Source: NEEM field diaries)

At the new EGRIP site, the scientists will examine the flow of unknown ice streams enabling the prediction of sea level rises. All drilling camp equipment from NEEM is to be taken by overland traverse to the new EGRIP position. At EGRIP, the scientists will layout the future camp, place the main dome in position, construct garages and build a skiway. The whole traverse is scheduled to take 12 days and will include 140 tons of equipment on sleds and tractor-like Pistenbully haulers.

During the traverse, surface-based, high resolution radar mapping will be carried out. It will show the internal layer structure of the ice to reconstruct past ice accumulation rates.

In a featured article for the University Post, PhD student Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson explained that the scientists can see layering in the ice and compare it to the ice core: “We often find that the layers correspond to, say, ancient volcanic eruptions. So, thousands of years ago a volcano somewhere in the world erupted, it sent out a huge amount of acid and dust, and now we can see that in the ice with our radar equipment.”

READ ALSO: Up on the ice sheet – looking down with a radar

According to the field diaries not everything has gone completely according to plan.

“After only 4 km, one Flexmobil had a broken fan belt. This was repaired in half an hour. Then the snow got softer, and the two Pistenbullies had trouble keeping up with their heavy loads. Several times they were stuck, and most of the time, they could barely make 7 km/hour.”

“To the rescue came Pat in his huge CASE tractor. After pulling the dome in position, Pat returned to help the struggling Pistenbullies. This was welcomed by the rest of camp, as the Pistenbullies had the camp generator in tow. In contrary to the slow pulling, camp setup was accomplished in half an hour. The dome contains everything, and with a little power, you are at home.”

Preparing for the big logistical operation

According to the updates the camp has moved beyond the position of 77.37 N, 50.11W. Temperatures right now are – 15°C to -22°C, with wind of 2-5 m/s. It is sunny.

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