GPS Measurements of fast flowing glaciers in East Greenland

GPS Measurements of fast flow in East Greenland

Gordon Hamilton, Leigh Stearns, UMaine
Meredith Nettles, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory

June 29, to July 7, July 22 to 30, and August 20 to 28th 2007

Satellite photo of GPS installations


Meredith Nettles (LDEO), Gordon and I arrived in Tasiilaq this morning.  We spent the day locating and organizing our equipment and settling into our rooms. The purpose of this trip (the first out of three this summer) is to deploy ~12 GPS receivers on Helheim Glacier. Unfortunately, helicopter negotiations have been complicated this year and we will be using a Bell 212 helicopter, which is much bigger than we hoped for.  Helheim Glacier is heavily crevassed, and landing spots are often quite small.

I’ve attached a few pictures of the town, Tasiilaq.  Tasiilaq is a small Greenlandic town of ~2000 people. It is a very interesting place to visit because it is culturally divided between traditional Greenlandic living and modern life. Many people here are subsistence hunters and have seal meat and fish drying on their roofs. At the same time, almost every person in town walks around with a cell phone, and hip-hop music is prevalent.

The first supply ship of the season arrived a few days before we got there, which was inadvertently good timing for us. Before the ship arrived, an apple cost ~$10, and the stores were low on stocks of the essentials.  Luckily, the stores were resupplied and the cost of fruit and vegetables dropped substantially before we arrived.

We spent most of the day testing each piece of our equipment and getting everything ready for deployment.  Helicopter time is expensive (~$5000/hour), so we want to be as efficient as possible during the installation.

The principal of the school invited us all to his house for dinner, which was a real treat.  He is Danish, and had only been in Tasiilaq for less than a year. It was fun to hear his family’s stories about moving to East Greenland and the issues that a principal deals with in an isolated town like this (for example, running out of paper at the school).

The helicopter does not fly on Sundays, so we took the day off to go do crevasse training on a nearby glacier. Meredith, Gordon and I hiked behind the town of Tasiilaq to a nearby glacier (~2.5 hour hike away) to practice self-arrests and rescue routines.  As you can see from the pictures, East Greenland is an incredible place to go hiking.

We were supposed to fly this afternoon, but there was fog in town, so we couldn’t take the helicopter out.  I spent part of the day watching two hunters skin a seal on an iceberg just outside of town.  You can see them working behind the run-down boat.

Another day of fog.  One source of entertainment for us has been going to the grocery store.  It seems that the stock of food items changes every day, and the whole process of buying, cooking and eating is always and adventure for us.  Here, Gordon holds up a frozen eggroll. It is literally a tube of egg, with the yolk in the middle.

We finally got out to the glacier today, and it was well worth the wait.  Tore, our Norweigan pilot, is truly incredible and managed to get us to all our sites in ~5 hours of work.  We had anticipated 10 – 12 hours of flying time, but a skilled pilot makes a huge difference.  Meredith had pre-selected some coordinates for us to land at, which made the process a lot easier. We would fly to the site and then Gordon or I would select a safe landing spot and Tore would maneuver the helicopter.  At each site we drilled 2 holes for 4–meter conduits and set up our GPS receiver which is powered by a solar panel (and batteries).  We got pretty efficient at the installation, and were doing the whole thing in ~10 minutes. Here are some pictures of our sites.