It has been a busy few days in the SEDIGAP camp. After arriving on Friday we have spent the last few days getting the ground penetrating radar (GPR) running and collecting some data close to the field centre. We have been gathering some scans of the permafrost active layer over an area that is being intensively monitored for parameters such as: ground temperature and conductivity. The idea is that by scanning the area in a grid pattern, we can produce an image of the subsurface and then overlay our data onto the existing measurements. This should create a very neat integration of several datasets! The GPR has had other ideas.
After last season’s debacle with the screen becoming too cold and fracturing, we have become wary of the GPRs temperamental nature. It likes to be kept warm and requires frequent rests between jobs. This can become frustrating for a team of very eager earth scientists! The GPR uses a series of sensors, wires, and batteries, which means that the scope for technical hitches can be considerable! Needless to say, we have spent a good deal of the last few days ironing out these issues. In some cases, we would complete half of a transect and the battery would cut out. Or the wires would become displaced. And we would have to start again. Being at a field site only a few hundred metres from Arctic Station has meant that we can come indoors, grab our spares kit/charged batteries/coffee cups/biscuit box and try again. Today, after 4 hours of failed data collection and some rewiring of the fibre optic cables, the GPR started working perfectly and we completed the grid (only a day behind schedule…). The last few days really have been a game of two halves!
We have had some fantastic entertainment in the way of the Women’s Football Final (Illulisat were the gold medalists, for those interested, with Disko winning the bronze) and spectacular calving of the icebergs in the bay. It really does make all the hard graft worthwhile!
Another highlight was meeting the former director of the mountain research centre at INSTAAR, Jim Halfpenny, who happened to be passing by leading an ecotourism trip. We were INSTAAR-struck (see what we did there?!). Several other walkers also stopped by to ask us about our research. It was public outreach in its purest form!
In other news today, our crate has arrived, and we finally have some new clothes to wear. As always, this wasn’t without its drama – the crate had been held at the harbour for the last week as it had accidentally been sent to Tim at the local supermarket (perhaps he is moonlighting as a shelf stacker?), rather than Kathryn at Arctic Station. In the confusion, they hadn’t known where to send it. We eventually found it in a warehouse, nestled amidst crates of Coke, Faxe Kondi (a favourite fizzy drink in Greenland), and Tuborg. There weresqueals of delight as we opened the crate to find everything that we had been missing. Walking boots, socks, and a big tub of e45 cream were amidst the most revered items. The arrival of the crate also means that we can finally start making plans for the trek back to Chamberlain Gletscher – our field site from last season. We need to return to this site to take repeat measurements downstream of the glacier, so that we can begin to assess changes in the permafrost active layer now that the thaw has set in. This part of the field campaign will take several days. Unlike our last trip, where we walked straight down the valley – traversing the frozen stream in crampons – this time we will have to take a longer route, now that the river is in full flow. It is likely to take a day to get there and set up the tent, before returning to collect the GPR. We can then camp at the site for as long as the GPR batteries permit… We are hoping to set off for this mini excursion on Thursday after some other field days close to Arctic Station, mapping bedrock bedforms and taking a short trip to another valley on the west of the ice cap. It’s all systems GO for Diskopermafrost!