Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

We received word today that we will be leaving tomorrow; June 22, 2007 around 8 AM local time (baggage palletized by 5:30 AM). We will have to stop in Goose Bay, New Foundland, Canada for a quick refueling stop because of the large amount of cargo and high number of passengers on the flight. Rumor has it, they will give us a free ice cream during our refueling stop. I will be equally impressed if they allow us a bathroom break. There is nothing like going to the bathroom on a rocking C-130 behind a thin, movable curtain. Until mid-afternoon today, it was doubtful we are going at all. Apparently, our C-130 got caught in the snow and ice on a runway at one of the camps on the icesheet. It is free now, therefore, so are we! Oops, it wasn't free. Another plane came for us. We didn't stop in Goose Bay because one of the pallets was removed. The decrease in weight allowed us to travel faster, and to not have to stop for refueling. It was a great flight home.

I took the bicycle ride to the glacier-edge and farther today. To the glacier-edge is about 25 km (17 miles) one way. I went considerably farther. I venture it was 31-32 km (22-23 miles; one way). On the way to the glacier, I had another unusual experience. I will explain shortly. First, let me describe the "road". It is unpaved, very rocky, very sandy, and on the way to the glacier nearly entirely uphill. The wind was blowing in my face the whole way out. I crest the last hill near the glacier. I see a tourist bus at the river crossing. Nearly all the tourists are in the process of gingerly crossing the river in order to touch the glacier face. This is really not a bright idea. Huge, heavy chunks of ice, and chunks of ice and sediment fall off all the time. Actually, when the chunks break away, it sounds like a gunshot. It is too late to try to get away at that point. One can only hope that the material will not fall on you or anyone else. No one can predict where the ice will break at any one time. Regardless, one of the tourist spots me on my bicycle. I am in shorts, and a T-shirt. I have with me sunscreen, a hat, a windbreaker-like jacket, chapstick, sunscreen, bandaids, a snickers bar, water, and my camera. He gestures and yells to his fellow tourists. Everyone stops crossing the river, stops touching the glacier and they all turn with their camera to take a picture of me. I thought of the many things I could do at the time to liven up the picture. I went with the innocent choice... a wave! They all smiled and waved back. I think I made their day. I am so pleased. Now, everyone will have a story to tell when doing their slide show. If slides had captions, I can only imagine what they might be. I think I was the only bicyclist on the road to the glacier today. All kidding aside, it was a very tough ride. For those safety conscious, I told a couple of people where I was going, and what time I anticipated returning. I set a limit of 3.5 hours out, and I figured the same for the return trip. Actually, despite being tired, I was faster on the return because most of the trip was down hill. Since darkness is not an issue, I had no worries. I just had to tough it out. I beat my deadline home, and had a lot to eat and drink. Shower and laundry before packing tonight!

While the ride was difficult. It was well worth it. The scenery was beautiful. It was the last item on my list to do in Greenland before going home. In terms of visuals, I wanted to stand on the iceshelf and view the unfettered white vastness, see ice cores, and see the edge of the glacier. The edge of the glacier was dirty as I expected. Glaciers pick up a great deal of sediment from their grinding across bedrock. However, the glacier does have beautiful white and sections. When seeing a glacier of this size, and the amount of water that pours from underneath, it is an impressive sight. Actually, meltwater speeds the glaciers downslope. So, meltwater might make a glacier appear to be "growing". However, it really might be thinning and slipping.

An interesting fact I learned from another educational talk was the Greenlander flag is not flown higher (as is the custom with the U.S. Stars and Stripes) than the Danish flag, but it is flown more north than the Danish flag. This is such a simple, elegant, and non-chauvinistic solution.

Please, forgive any spelling errors. Spell check is inaccessible to me right now because I can't read Danish... It is so difficult to edit oneself. Largely, I think this is true because most of us secretly believe we don't require editing...

Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for your emails and comments. However, most of all, thank you for your expressed, and understood support. I could not do this without you. To my wife Barbara, and daughter Carsen, I want you to know that most of all I appreciate and love you. I want to thank Dr. Greg Huey of GA Tech for allowing me to participate. You were kind and supportive, so I had the trip of a lifetime. I could not have asked for more.
Oh yes, I have decided to continue the blog. The upcoming voyages might not be as dramatic, but they will noted, and shared. Sometimes, trips of the heart, mind, and spirit take one one farther than those of the body. Be well all. Please, share your voyages with me. mike

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