Week 04 Green Land

Date Posted: 3.15.2009
Location: 44º54'N 92º47'W
Expedition Basecamp, Minnesota, USA
Weather Conditions: Overcast, 50°F (10°C)
No, no, we are not in the country of Greenland quite yet. However, just as last week we had windblown fields of deep snow as far as the eye could see around Expedition Basecamp, today the scenery is all changed. We have not seen any green yet, but it's all muddy fields with stubby cornstalks and lakes of water! "On a training run with the Polar Huskies this week, we actually observed waves on the puddles!" says Andrea with a grin.

 

   Watch Polar Huskies training in then slushy snow and across muddy fields.
 

   Watch a bit of a training run from Chukchi's perspective, filmed with his head cam!
 
 




      
 
Our qamutik!  
Luckily, once we get going with the Polar Huskies there is no risk of all the snow melting away on our route up onto the upwards of three-kilometers-thick ice sheet that covers most of Greenland. Mille did however get confirmation this week that the sea ice conditions around Greenland are horrendous. Explorer Ole Jørgen Hammeken's sled dogs out of Uummannaq have not been able to get out to pull the qamutik sleds at all. The community of Uummannaq, where Christine will be heading later during our journey to Greenland, is on a small island off the coast of Greenland. So, if there is no sea ice, there is no way to go dog sledding. Actually, it is not a good situation at all. The ice has simply not formed this year, while it is still so cold that ice has frozen, it is not enough to make it safe to set out by boat either.




      
 
       
  Listen to the story behind the armband
and Mille's sense of place!
   


[image right: A beautiful wristband with Greenland's animals]


Talk about sea ice, it is changing and the effects it's having on people in Greenland was part of the fantastic chat we had on Wednesday with our own GoNorth! Cool scientists  Shari Gearheard. With questions pouring in from Australia and Hungary to Maine in the USA, some 45 locations took part possibly making it our largest chat ever with upwards of what could be 1,000 students online at once!!! "Simply spectacular to watch the learning in action like that," says Aaron. Mille admits the experience brought tears to her eyes! She goes on, "the chat along with the many sweet Send-a-Notes and the already many great postings in the Zones are just the best motivation we can get as we are about to set out on the expedition and for the long days ahead on the sled."



   
      
 

   Watch "Arctic Transportation"
   by Ms Jones Class!
   
   
     Explore the shop while we are wrapping
   up the last preparations for the
   expedition - what is Paul working on?
   
Make sure you don't miss the next chat with another GoNorth! Cool Scientist, Henry Huntington, Wednesday March 17 at 12 PM CT on the topic of the "Human Connection." Discussing our sense of place, how we shape our environment and how our environment shapes us! For example, in our choice of transportation! A fantastic posting was made this week to the Explore Zone by Ms. Jones and her students in New York, USA on kayaks and qamutiks! Check it out and then log into the Zones and let them know what you think! Make a post in the Culture Zone on the preferred choice of transportation where you live - in the past and today. Let us know how its connected with your local environment, and why this IS the preferred form of transportation! Why is your transportation maybe different than what it is in Greenland?

 

        
 

 

Finishing up the final touches on the two qamutik (or komatik) sleds that we will be using on the expedition was just some of the crazy buzz at Expedition Basecamp. The sounds of crunching Ramen noodles and the rattle from the GORP mixer had barely faded from last week's food pack out! Less than 36 hours later we were all going full out from early morning to late night!  This time, however, we were working on the gear and equipment for the journey ahead.


[image left: Andrea gives Lightning paste to prevent any chance of parasites before the expedition.]




      
 
         Aaron works on the skis
Skis were prepared for bindings; the stove boxes organized; lunch bags were organized with tested thermoses, utensils and all; chain brakes for the sleds were made; carabiners, harnesses, bungees, ice screws, snow stakes were counted; and on it goes! "Our goal was to have the major part of the expedition packed to go before calling it a day" says Brant, and that's pretty much how it worked out on what Mille dubbed the "maybe busiest day of the year!"
   

Watch Aaron explain the last task in finishing up the tents that we
will sleep in on the expedition
   







There is no doubt the Polar Husky veterans know what's going on! That is, the day of departure is approaching. Twenty-three pairs of eyes stared towards the shop area, watching every movement to gauge what's next while the silent air is constantly broken by long howls; which was answered back by the pack of coyotes that hang out around Expedition Basecamp!



      
 
Polar Husky Superstar Nazca  


Probably the most relaxed Polar Husky is this week's first Polar Husky Superstar, Nazca. The matriarch of the Kennel, this incredible Polar Husky take pretty much everything with a stoic calm while always trying to sneak a little gentle kiss planted on your face if she can. But then, Nazca knows what she is doing. The oldest Polar Husky to be running on this expedition, she has an unbelievable number of expeditions under her paws. She has traveled literally around the circumpolar Arctic as she has been on an expedition every year since 1999! She has  crisscrossed Canada and Alaska, and pulled across Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland! For most of her life Nazca was the fastest Polar Husky in the kennel.  Today she is the older lady and has had to give up that title probably to one of her little granddaughters - Kinu or Sisu. Sisu is this week's second Polar Husky superstar!


      
 
         Polar Husky Superstar Sisu







In some ways Sisu is much like her grandmother. She is very sweet and gentle, loves attention and is very shy with new people. However, she still is very calm! Fast as can be, she worked her way up the line in the team last year on what was her first expedition. In a bind when going through a steep canyon the bigger dogs needed to be closer to the sled for sake of power, and Sisu ended up in point simply for a place to put her. However, she blew us away! Beyond revved up, she just went at it! She was crazed and determined to get the sled moving and the team going behind her. Despite her young age she was completely unfazed by the pressure of running in the front of the team. The only thing that seems to get to little Sisu is when things just are not moving along quite fast enough! But then, her name means determination and she has pretty much run in point ever since. We are sure she will be up front once again when we set out with mukluks and paws on snow again in white (Green)land.