Thursday, June 7, 2007

Summit Camp, Greenland

Last night was cool/cold and foggy. I understand the temperature was below zero degrees Fahrenheit, but I don't know the exact temperature. Little wind, but a gentle breeze encourages one into the tent, and then the sleeping bag. Summit Camp is above the Arctic Circle, so the sun never sets for a portion of the year,but it does get low in the horizon. This is "night", and since the angle of the sun is low, the temperature drops off. This morning, the tent was comfortably warm because the morning sun reheated the tent. The tents are billed as Scott (after the explorer) ovens. They are sturdy, double-walled tents.

I had breakfast, and listened to the discussions held by camp manager Kathy Young. Of especial concern was the ice coring work. It is considered to be relatively warm here, but not unusually so. However, it is warm enough to produce concern about trenching the snow for the drilling, and the maintenance of the cores once they are extracted. The ice cores can not be permitted to melt. They are not analyzed here, but are transported off Greenland to labs. The communal meal times are very important. People are seldom, if ever petty. Much of the talk revolves around the work occurring at camp, and its significance. People that go to these places tend to be cooperative, hardworking, talented, intelligent, and a bit visionary in their outlook. I look forward to the meals as much, if not more for the talk, than the food.

We moved empty compressed gas cylinders used in the experiments a bit more than 1/2 of a mile near to where they will be palleted up for transport off Greenland. The cylinders stand nearly as tall as me, and weigh about 150 pounds. To move them for departure, we use banana sleds, and pull. It is slightly uphill to our destination, and pulling them is hard work.

Lunch, like all meals was wonderful. I don't eat red meat, and little chicken or fish. The staff at Summit is most accommodating, so my dietary needs and epicurean wants are easily met. I try to limit the amount of food I eat. I know at altitude (approximately 11, 000 feet), and in the cold one uses more calories, but I am still cautious about the amount of calories I consume. I have switched from coffee to teas, and treat myself to an occasional hot chocolate. I don't consume a lot of alcohol as a rule, and to date haven't indulged in any. After lunch, I took a few mile walk on the ice runway. I didn't walk to the end, but I did get far enough away that when I looked out on either side, I felt like I was looking out on forever. It gave me pause to ponder. At times, I am very much an introvert, and need time alone. For me, alone time does not mean lonely. I love people, and after all I do teach school, but time alone is important to me. Buddha is reputed to have said "Work out the details of your own salvation with diligence." I believe that in my alone times, this is what I am doing.

This afternoon, I learned how to change out the compressed gas cylinders used in the experiments. This evening, we will download, backup and manipulate some of the data resulting from the experiments. I will do my best, but my computer skills are somewhat lacking. They will improve with practice. Greg Huey says that the work is going well, and much good data has been collected. The picture on the lower left shows Greg in the instrument trailer where samples are measured. Data from these instruments is processed in the Quonset Hut containing the computers. We have about ten days of collecting left. Then, we spend a couple of days of packing up the equipment, and hauling it for transport on the C-130.

It is late, but before I turn in, I wanted to share with you something beautiful I saw. Fog rolls in early evening and the temperature drops. The temperature dropping I could do without, but the fog is made of super-cooled water, and when the fog interacts with sunlight "fogbows" as in rainbows are produced. The neat thing about fogbows is you can see the entire arc. So, you can see the beginning and end of the fogbow! Technically, the fog is caused by a temperature inversion that is about ten meters high. Later in the evening the wind picks up a bit, the inversion is disrupted (turbulence occurs), the fog dissipates, and so does the fogbow. Our eyes can see it, but it is nearly impossible to take a photograph.

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