Planes, trains, and automobiles

Following our quick stay in Aasiaat we have now reached our home for the next two weeks – Arctic Station!  We spent a very enjoyable morning in Aasiaat with a leisurely walk around the town, followed by a 3 hour boat journey across Disko Bay to Qeqertarsuaq.

The Aasiaat bag lady
The Aasiaat bag lady

The boat trip was great fun, and it allowed us to add another mode of transport to this journey’s list (along with underground, plane, pick-up and taxi!).  Aasiaat is the whale-watching capital of Greenland, and a few minutes into the journey we saw a whale!  One of the crew pointed out the spray coming from its blow hole off in the distance, and its tail was visible as it dived down.

Whale spout (arrowed)
Whale spout (arrowed)
Kathryn deep in thought (asleep) below deck
Kathryn deep in thought (asleep) below deck

As we got closer to Disko Island the weather closed in, and we were sailing through very thick, low fog, so we retreated below deck to warm up. Before long though, the weather cleared and we were approaching Qeqertarsuaq.  As we collected our luggage to disembark we spotted Ole (the chief scientist at Arctic Station), Akaar (the technician of AS), and their pick-up truck.  It was great to see them again, and it was kind of them to come and collect us, considering we thought we were going to have to struggle the few kilometres to the station with our luggage.  It was interesting to see Qeqertarsuaq in its summer bloom, with no snow or skidoos to be seen anywhere.  Browns, greens, and yellows have replaced the white and black, which though stunning, can become monotonous.  As we pulled into Arctic Station Ole pointed out that the Women’s Greenlandic Football Championship was taking place this week, on the football pitch next to Arctic Station.  Akaar’s daughter is in the Qeqertarsuaq team, who are trying the better the silver medals they won last year.

Football in front of the bay
Football in front of the bay

Once we’d unpacked our bags (and the small mountain of food we’d left behind from our last visit) we were fortunate to bump into Bo Elberling, a Professor at the University of Copenhagen and Director of the Centre for Permafrost (CENPERM).  We’d been in email contact with Bo throughout the past year as CENPERM are carrying out intensive monitoring of the local permafrost.  It was great to meet him in person, and we discussed some possible future collaborations.  We haven’t been able to collect the crate of equipment that we shipped out yet, but luckily we do have enough to begin some work tomorrow.  Hopefully we’ll have enough clothes to last until we can collect our shipping on Monday…

As we discussed in a previous post, we are interested in the state of the permafrost on Disko, especially how it behaves directly in front of a glacier.  As we have two full weeks out here, we have a long (and growing) list of things we want to do.  Firstly, we’re going to use the ground penetrating radar (GPR) to scan the area that Bo and his team at CENPERM have been monitoring close to Arctic Station.  This will help us to calibrate our equipment without walking too far, and also help to develop a 3-D image of the permafrost that can be combined with the high resolution monitoring data already in progress. After this we’re going to head to our site at Chamberlain Gletscher in Blæsdalen to re-run the GPR lines we collected in April. This will allow us to assess the changes in the upper (‘active’) layer of the permafrost as it has melted during the Spring.  We are also hoping to scan the glacier snout itself, so that we can begin to characterise its thermal regime. While the weather is more favourable, we also intend to complete a good deal of our geomorphological mapping surrounding Lyngmarksbræn.

Though it is a lot warmer compared to April, the summer field-season does cause some complications.  The valley floor which we strolled along in crampons in April is now a 1 kilometre wide, 5 kilometre long bog which we need to avoid, and the snow bridges we used to cross a river valley no longer exist.  Though this is likely to add hours onto our walk, and means that we will be camping at the site, we have plenty of time to carry out our work, and it will definitely be worth it.  Besides, with enough Soreen anything is possible (other brands of malt loaf are available)!

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One Reply to “Planes, trains, and automobiles”

  1. Hi there, this all looks fantastic and glad to see you are traveling light. Lovely to see a whale too!
    Take care in those boggy bits and in your ‘spare’ time you could join the football team for a spot of training? Have fun
    lots of love from home
    XXXXX

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