GREENLAND FINALLY! June 29th, 2012
After a long ride of trying to get some sleep in before a big day in Greenland, we arrived! Flying into Greenland was an amazing site! Much of the Ocean was frozen in parts, and little icebergs were scattered across the ocean landscape. Greenland itself is full of frosty looking mountains along the coast, but looking beyond them its an abyss of white. Thule itself is a peninsula and is very brown-rocky and dusty. The airport doesn’t have a fence around it or any sort of border, so I could easily end up on it if I wasn’t paying attention, but it is the only outdoor paved surface so while cars go on pavement in the U.S. they belong nowhere near it in Thule (unless you need to wash it and in that case there is a small slab of pavement, FAR from the “airport.”
After getting off the plane we were greeted by a line of men dressed in their Airforce uniforms, not surprising since Thule is an base for the U.S. Airforce, but I haven’t seen really any uniformed men since then. The “airport” itself was a very small building where we filled out some paperwork, handed in our orders to be on the base, and grabbed our luggage (all in the same room!). Our flight held no more than 30 people and there are only two flights per week of people coming into that then take people out of the base, so they don’t get much traffic and don’t need a fancy airport.
After arriving, we ate lunch, at the Dundas Dining Hall, which is buffet style and offers a good deal of options (so mom and dad, I’m eating better than you thought I would!) and I met the fourth member of the research group Jack Stephens. Jack is a photographer, meteorologist for the base, health food connoisseur, and an important member of the group. He is from Atlanta, Georgia, but has been working on the base for about 30 years, his ability to stick around on such a small camp, really shows his love for the area.
After lunch, our work began. The prep team: Dr. Kurt Burnham, Bridger Konkle, and I, arrived in Greenland a week before the rest of the crew, to organize supplies, move it into the barracks for convenience, and move other items based on new rules on base. We’ve unstacked large pallets of boxes in “623” a large storage building where the High Arctic Institute houses most of its supplies during the cold winter. Some of this work, it was hard for me as a newcomer to help out with, because I’m not familiar with the process yet, so I spent some time sitting and watching while Bridger and Kurt looked around for things. We took many things to “353” the name/address of our barrack, reorganized the office we will be working out of in there.
Yesterday (June 30th, 2012), more moving of equipment took place, and we went through the hazardous materials in our large cargo box, cleaned out gas cans, and started an inventory of the box to accommodate a few changes on base. I helped in the office by putting together the kits for bird feather, blood and DNA samples. I filled DNA tubes with buffer so that they can be stored at room temperature, and then put together about 45 kits. The work wasn’t too bad, but I know I have a lot more to do in the future! So we’ll see how I feel about the kits a few weeks down the road. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t mess any up and forget the blood sample tubes or anything! While I worked on the kits, Bridger installed a new radio in the boat. Later we tested his work to make sure it worked, and never have I seen two grown men so excited about a radio. It was quite fun though!
Today (July 30th) was a big work day. We stared the day by putting the boat in the water, a big feet indeed, but despite everything that could have gone wrong, nothing did and it was a very successful and stress-free event. First we had to hook the boat onto the truck, something that most of us were wary of, because the Blue truck as we refer to it as has seen better years, and the boat is BIG. It took some muscle to move the boat so that we could hitch it, but before we knew it the first step was done! Then we gathered large metal track to prevent the trailer and truck from sinking into the beach. The stuff was quite heavy and I put my muscles to work! Now for the hardest part, actually getting the boat onto the water. We laid the track in front of the trailer and truck wheels in a leap frog kind of style, until the boat hit the water. It was a very stop and go process, but our patience made the process move quite smoothly according to their stories from past years.
After that whole process, Bridger and I headed to fill up the boat with gas. But before making it there, I got an impromptu lesson on how to drive stick! I had tried to learn how to drive in a failed attempt in the past, and so was quite wary to learn while on this trip, but it is necessary, because fueling the boats is a two man trip, and here is why. To begin, we filled up 5 20-gallon containers at the small gas station. That in itself can be complicated, because once you have inserted your key in the control machine, you have a limited number of time to begin filling. We had to put some Octane improvers in the gas as well, which added a small step before filling. The worst part, however, is that gasoline attracts mosquitoes, and sitting there filling up each tank can be a rather stressful event as you swat away mosquitoes and race to finish before they eat you alive! Trust me when I say that there are swarms of mosquitoes here in Greenland. It’s nothing like I’ve ever witnessed before: like a gnat outbreak, except the annoying gnats also like to suck your blood.
After filling the tanks we headed to the boat, and then I ran the rump, while Bridger controlled the line into the boat. The pump itself is rather large and bulky, and my first attempt to move it from one jug to another ended with me getting doused in gasoline! Not fun to say the least, but I survived. I started to get the hang of the process; next step however, will be to figure out how to fully empty the jugs. The boat takes A LOT of gas, so one fill-up wasn’t enough and we headed back to the gas station to fill up the jugs again. To minimize our exposure to the blood-thirsty mosquitoes, Bridger and I messed with the filter times of the gas, so that now we are only filtering the beginning of the first jug and the end of the last. (We’ve decided to filter the gas from pump to jug becuase this will be the last year that the Air Base is supplying Unleaded fuel, and since they are reaching the end of their supply, we want to make sure that nothing bad gets into the tank. We then headed back to the boat, and thankfully had enough to finish off the gas tank. We only needed two truckloads of gas, but the whole process took about 3 hours!
After that whole feat, I took the blue truck out and washed it at the washing station, a nice easy job, but it left me pretty wet. So after this long day, I smelled like gasoline, was sweaty from the boat work, and now wet from washing the truck. Needless to say my shower was well deserved today! We have a few more days before the rest of the crew shows up, I hope everything else gets in order by then! Once we’re ready, the fun will begin: Birds!
Posted on July 1st, 2012 by Claire Behnke
Filed under: Greenland 2012