Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

We will be going up to Summit Camp tomorrow at about 9:30 AM local time. The temperature for the duration of the time we are in Summit will average 0-5 degrees Fahreinheit. Scientists and other interested parties had it much worse earlier in the season. I suppose to them, it will be balmy.

The hike up Black Ridge was wonderful. From the crest of the ridge, one could see the mountains on the edge of the ocean, and when one turned around the icesheet. From end to end, the fjord (a portion which is shown in the picture to the right) in which Kangerlussuaq sits is 170 km (about 115 miles long). Kangerlussuag translates into "the great fjord". I have been told that the glacial meltwater of the river at Kanger contributes 4% of the total volume of water drained from the Greenland icesheet. Apparently, the glacier is accelerating its downward trip. Scientists believe that water under the glacier is making the glacier slip more easily than before. The water is created by an increase in the Earth's temperature resulting in faster melting of the ice probably as a result of man induced global warming. It is estimated that if the ice sheet entirely melts on Greenland, the world's sea level will rise 20-25 feet. I can only imagine the dislocation and disruption this will cause to the world's population. Equally amazing is that the weight of the ice sheet pushes the area of central Greenland below sea level. So, if the ice sheet melts, Greenland will be an archipelago.

In addition to the great views on the walk, some wildlife was observable. In particular, musk oxen were spotted. We trudged on the tundra to get a closer look, but not too closely. The males can get to 900 lbs., and seem to run quickly. I am glad they ran away from us, and not towards us! The tundra is squishy, and filled with grasses, moss, and on the rocks lichen. Also, we spotted snow buntings that had white patches on their wings, but were shaped rather like sparrows. They were fairly plentiful, and we spotted one Raven. Also, animal tracks were spotted. I think they were Arctic Fox, but I am not sure.

The rocks surrounding us are gneiss (pronounced "nice"). Pictured below and to the right is an example of metamorphic rock. The image is of Black Ridge backlit by morning sunrise. They are metamorphic meaning that they have been secondarily heated and subjected to pressure. I have been told that the surrounding area contains some of the most ancient rocks on the planet with an age close to 4 billion years. Some of the rock gives evidence that life existed on earth nearly 3.8 billion years ago. Surprisingly, old rock is not common. The theory of plate tectonics believes that rocks are continually being drawn into the earth's surface in subduction zones, and new rock is formed in ridges. The conveyor belt of earth created by the a vast reservoir of heat deep within the core of the planet perpetually moves continents and their underlying plates around. This movement produces earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as continuously changing face of Planet Earth.

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