Monday, June 18, 2007

Summit Camp, Greenland

Last night, we packed until 10:45 PM local time, and we were back at it at 8:30 AM this morning. It takes a lot of material, and a lot of of work to run a scientific expedition (the word used in camp is campaign) of this type and magnitude. Let me give you an idea of the quantity of material. Pallets are stacked with our boxes, etc. eight feet tall, then we strap them down. Imagine ants crawling under, on, and over a scrap of food, and you would have a good idea of what we looked like. Very little of our person is visible. Communication is largely verbal between individuals; the subtle facial cues we take from one another are hidden by scarves, and sunglasses. The temperature was at zero Fahrenheit, and there was wind. It was chilly. Each pallet must be weighed. We have two plus pallets. The first pallet weighed 4,800 pounds. That is nearly 2.5 tons. The second pallet is as large. The third is a collection of other miscellaneous material, and it will contain our luggage. Perhaps, the numbers I just gave you will give you an idea of the size and strength of the C-130. The nickname for C-130s is Hercules! I have to agree. Actually, the C-17 I flew to Antarctica (from Christchurch) can hold much more. Inside it is huge. However, it is a jet, and as far as I can tell, C-17s have not been fitted with skis for landing on snow and ice.

I will not be sleeping in a tent tonight. My sleeping bags were used for packaging material in the wooden crates containing the large equipment. Instead, I will be sleeping in the Recreation Port (Recport) on a cot. I think there is even heat in the structure! One of the ice-corers is making a Thai dinner for everyone. He says it will be hot. He didn't even bother with the word spicy. Maybe I will still be hot from dinner and not be affected by the cold cabin trip back to Kanger. Before dinner, another round of Trivial Pursuit ensued. After dinner Soccer (football in most of the world) will occur. It will be the young v. old. The demarkation line is thirty-five years old. Much bravado on each side. Yesterday, the Summit Golf Tournament occured. With flags embedded in the snow all over for safety, identifying "pee" poles, freezers, science trenches, skiway, etc., the course is already laid out. Golf is a winner here!

We must have our personal belongings ready to be palletized by 9 AM in the morning. We will sit around until the C-130 lands, pick up a brown bag lunch (a very nice touch given by Summit's great staff), then board the plane. If the plane lands, I understand we will leave. A plane will fly into Summit if the pilot can identify a horizon (not as easy as one thinks given the conditions), and cross winds are not too great (no, I don't want to roll in a plane). Take off will be interesting. C-130s are propeller (four) driven planes. However, to assist in take-offs four JATOs (Jet-Assisted-Take-Off devices) are attached to each side of the fuselage near the rear of the plane. As the plane gathers speed for takeoff, the JATOs are activated. The fire like rockets. I understand there is no shutoff once ignited. Flame and gas are spewed out the back, and the plane is accelerated forward. It is a perfect example of Newton's Third Law of Motion summarized in the saying "For every action, there is an equal, but opposite reaction". I will tell you how it goes in tomorrow's blog. It will be my first JATO takeoff. From the ground, it is spectacular (although, it did greatly affect the measurements of the scientists.); everyone at camp stops what they are doing to watch them.

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