East Greenland Glaciology
Gordon Hamilton and Leigh Stearns
June 22 to July 26, 2005
Gordon Hamilton     Leigh Stearns
Monday, June 27, 2005
Air temp: -2°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Leigh writes:
40 miles west of Scoresby Sund, Eastern Greenland

We woke up to our first sunny day! The helicopter had already taken our captain on a scouting trip to find open leads in the water, and we are cruising at 4 knots to Scoresby Sund. Last night we were 40 miles from the entrance of the sound / fjord and today we are still 40 miles from the fjord. The pack ice has been pretty thick, so we had to back-track a bit and approach the fjord from the south instead of the north. The Arctic Sunrise is a relatively small ship and can only break through some ice. As a result, the captain is constantly trying to find leads (pathways with no ice) to navigate through. The ship bounces and jolts quite a bit when it tries to break through ice, and we've all had some near falls while walking around the cabins.

After the morning ritual of breakfast and cleaning the ship (everyone, regardless of rank, is assigned a task for the day), I spent most of the day picking coordinates off our Landsat imagery for potential landing spots on the glacier. Either tomorrow or the next day, Gordon and I will fly to Daugaard-Jensen Glacier and start our GPS measurements. We want to measure the ice velocity as close to the glacier front as we can safely get to. We'll place 3' conduit pipes at 5 spots across the front of the glacier and measure (with GPS) how fast they move in ~24 hours. Over the past few days, we've been preparing our gear, programming the GPS receivers and making sure that the gel-cell batteries are fully charged. We also did basic crevasse rescue exercises in 'the hold' (lower deck) of the ship today. It's possible that some of the crew members and photographers will join us on the ice, so we went over how to get out of crevasses (by hanging from the beams of the ship and prussicking to the rafters. Prussicking is a process in which one climbs up a rope using slings for your body and feet, the slings being attached by slip-knot to the rope). It has really been a beautiful day today. We are within 40 miles of Scoresby Sund, which is the longest fjord in the world. There is sea ice for miles and miles, buttressed by enormous and dramatic mountains. I've never been on a ship before, and am really appreciating the slow approach to land. When I've been to Antarctica, I step off the plane and am blown away by the spectcular scenery. But on a boat, you are given the details in tiny increments, and you can cherish each one. We've seen a number of birds and ringed seals and this morning I saw some HUGE polar bear tracks..but no bear yet.

There are ~20 of us on board right now. There are ~15 crew members (including engineers, cooks, the 'garbologist, and some volunteers), 2 'campaigners' who work on the Greenpeace logistics and PR, a film-maker, a photographer, a helicopter pilot, a translator (for when we're in Greenland villages), a website designer (check out www.projectthinice.org), a radio comms guy and us. For now, Gordon and I are the only scientists but others will join in southern and western Greenland. I'm eager to get to the ice, so hopefully tomorrow or the next day, we'll get to do some science!!

Tuesday, June 28
Air Temp 6° C
Scoresby Sund, East Greenland

Excellent ice navigation skills by the ship's captain brought us through the pack ice choking the mouth of Scoresby Sund early this morning. We followed a lead on the south side of the fjord before the ice clearedcompletely about 25 km from the mouth. We made good progress, skirting past enormous icebergs, and by dinner time we were within 40 km of our first field site, Daugaard Jensen Gletscher. Hugh, the helicopter pilot, and Gordon flew out on a reconnaisance mission during the evening and established a GPS static reference station and an equipment cache on a grassy promontory above the fjord, about 2 km from the glacier's calving terminus. We saw several muskox families (adults and their young) close to the landing site. We also flew onto the glacier and scouted out potential landing sites. The glacier is extremely crevassed close to the calving terminus, but there are places where it is possible to set down the helicopter and conduct our work safely. Our plan is to fly up to the glacier in the morning and establish the survey lines.

Scoresby Sund is the world's largest fjord system. Our study glaciers are at the head of the innermost branch, Nordvestfjord, more than 200 km from the coast. Scoresby Sund is also one of the deepest fjords in the world, with depths in excess of 1500 m. Polished rock walls plunge vertically into the water on both sides of the fjord, and numerous waterfalls cascade down the steep cliffs. The icebergs are huge. Several kilometers long in some cases. Each one is unique and a constant source of photographic material for those watching from the ship's deck. At night, it is difficult to pull ourselves away from the ever changing views and get some sleep.

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Gallery of Images