Week 10 Power-up...

Date Posted: 4.23.2010
Location: 76º32'N 68º45'W
Thule Air Base, Greenland
Weather Conditions: Overcast 18ºF (-8ºC)
The 3-day storm that reached sustained winds of 80 knots (90 mph / 145 km/h) finally died down and Andrea, Brant and Tim landed at Thule Air Base. At last, all of our expedition team, all together here in Greenland! Actually, it ended up the team was together much longer than planned for. Some five days later than expected, Christine was able to board her helicopter back north to the community of Qaanaaq. But in the time together we got lots done! We were finally able to leave our
home here in Thule, the TSAR (Thule Station for Arctic Research)
building, and we were off for the hangar to quickly work our way
down our checklist.

   Andrea, Tim and Brant hiked to nearby Russells
  Glacier while stranded in Kangerlussuak while
  the storm raged here at Thule Air Base

  Watch Christine back in Qaanaaq already enjoying
  more delicacies from the sea!


Aaron’s bloody hands after tying up the sleds.       
Aaron’s bloody hands after tying up the sleds.  
Watch the storm with Dave, a meteorologist at Thule Air Base one of
the most important weather stations in
            the world – a reason TAB came to be!
Lashing the sleds together, setting up food resupplies, pouring fuel, mounting ski bindings, ensuring all power supplies are powered up… “Working in the huge heated hangar is such a treat. It sure makes everything a lot easier!” laughs Aaron.  Frankly, we are quite impressed by the facilities here at Thule Air Base (TAB), and even more so when one realizes how TAB, as it is called, came to be! It started with 120 ships loaded with more than 12,000 soldiers and 300,000 tons of cargo somehow secretly sneaking out of a port in Virginia on the East coast of the United States. It was on June 6th in 1951, the beginning of Operation Blue Jay, a top-secret mission to build a remote weather station and military base in Greenland. About a month later the armada of ships arrived at the bay where the base is now located. With construction taking place around the clock, everyone lived on-board the ships and in a matter of months, before the ice froze up so the ships could leave for home, the base came to be: 82 miles of road, 38 fuel tanks, 10 hangers, 122 barracks, 6 mess halls, a gym, service club, post office, theater, chapel, hospital, 63 warehouses and six power plants! Oh, and a 10,000 foot runway to allow for huge B-52 bomber planes to land.

Snaking pipes everywhere!
         Snaking pipes everywhere!
“Everything looks pretty different here. Probably most strange to me are the pipes snaking everywhere - running in awnings over streets, into buildings, between buildings…” says Andrea. “Huge pipes sticking straight out of the ground!” adds Tim. It turns out it is some pretty brilliant stuff! Meeting with Kenneth Stelsoe, the Chief Engineer at the base today, he explained the reason for the pipes sticking up out of the ground are to make sure that the buildings do not sink into the ground! The ecosystem here is a polar desert. That means the ground is permafrost. The ground is frozen year around, except for the active layer, a shallow layer on the very top! If you place a heated building on top of the permafrost the heat from the building will melt the ground and then the house will sink! This is why houses in the Arctic are built on stilts! Now, some of the really big hangers here are not built on stilts. Instead, there are tubes running underneath the buildings that also stick out tall above the ground on each side. These tubes bring in the cool air moving the heat from the building out in the tubes before
it gets into the permafrost!

Explore Thule Air Base! Can you locate the bay with icebergs in the distance?”

Watch Chief Engineer Kenneth Stelsoe explain how buildings on stilts and piping running above ground at Thule Air Base has all to do with the habitat!

The permafrost is also why no pipes can be placed underground. Instead, all pipes and cables are run within the pipes in every possible direction. This includes pipes that carry water and steam for heating, cables for electricity, and also pipes for fuel, tap water and even waste water. The power at TAB is generated from jet fuel. Actually, even the cars on base run on jet fuel! However, as Kenneth mentioned, “You don’t drive faster by that!” :) Cleaned and chlorinated, the water gets piped from lakes outside of the base that are so deep they do not freeze. Sewer is pretty much “downhill to the ocean!” says Mille. Its what’s called gravitational flow, because there is no actual treatment plant here. Police Chief John Hansen shared with us that this is one reason local hunters most often do not eat their catch from this bay, but only use it for example for dog food. Actually, John shared with us that to his knowledge there are no sewer treatment plants anywhere in Greenland!? However, what they do have here on the base is a garbage dump! Kenneth shared with us that all dangerous waste is packaged and shipped out. Shipping out any and all garbage however would make a larger environmental footprint because of what is needed in transportation alone!

Students in Qaanaaq are working on photo essays about what climate change is to them with Christine.  
Did you calculate your footprint measurement yet? Last week we added our foot prints to the Earth Zone and this week we each came up with an Earth Day resolution and also posted that to the Zone. Make sure to share your Earth Day in the Zone as well – if you go to the Climate Zone you will even find a calculator just for looking at your carbon footprint!

Listen to Aaron’s Earth Day Resolution on how he plans to reduce his footprint!

Kenneth shared with us that the footprint of the base today is definitely much smaller than what it was in the past. First, because there are less than 1000 people here now, but also as he said because “We spend way less (resources), and we spend it better!”

There are plenty of huge footprints around here! It’s the Arctic Hare. “Easily the biggest hares we have ever seen around the circumpolar Arctic!” says Aaron. We decided it’s a good thing they do not have habit of digging tunnels in the ground—they are so huge and fat we think they would get stuck! They also do not dig tunnels in the ground because of the permafrost. They have adapted, not by means of fancy tubes sticking out of the ground, but by digging their tunnels in the snow pack instead of under the ground!

[image right: A huge Arctic Hare on the run across the tundra!]

Driving over to Dundas on a dirt road out of the base, we met two locals out seal hunting with their dog teams  



Watch the hunters take off with the team
out to hunt for seal!



Watch Jim from the GrIT team explain about their huge undertaking heading inland with a tractor train!  

We believe this area traditionally has been good hunting grounds. Not because of the hares, but for the seals out on the bay. Where TAB is located today was originally home to native Kalaallit. When the 121 ships arrived they were promptly told to relocate to another location some miles away on the other side of the bay. Dundas, or Uummannaq, only came to be for a few years before the locals were soon told they had to move from there too. Greenland was a colony of Denmark at the time and the Danish government moved in to confiscate their houses, making them move to a new community several hundred miles to the north. That is how the community of Qaanaaq, where Christine currently is, came to be!

The first year-round dwelling here was actually constructed by the famous Greenlandic Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen. Rasmussen thought this would a perfect place to do science and plan expeditions from. In fact, he planned all of his famous five expeditions from here! Right now, we are actually two expeditions leaving out from here! GrIT (Greenland Inland Traverse) is a team of five engineers working on setting up a new way to resupply the NEEM and Summit research stations - the same places we are going!  They are working to resupply these stations in a way that will use fewer resources, such as fuel, and have much lower carbon emissions! A huge tractor will pull enormous bladder of fuel and huge sleds filled with supplies. The original plan was for the GrIT team to leave ahead of us since they will quickly travel much faster than us and will not have an easy time maneuvering around us. Very importantly, the thought was also that in the first 70 miles, which is littered with crevasses, any stretch they are able to pass over we can safely follow as well! The only trouble is, their powerful monster machines have been having all sorts of trouble beginning early this week and it’s been a no-go. So, the thought now is that we will begin ahead of them! With a few changes on our end, we are now just about powered up and ready to go!


Watch as we take a tour of NASA’s science-lab-on-wings! This week the plane and over 40 scientists have been flying out of TAB on Operation Ice Bridge – a science mission to better understand the ice sheet, any changes happening to it, and what this will mean to the ocean!

[image right: Doing our little part for Operation Ice Bridge, we will have an antenna and a special GPS reader attached to the sled which will make readings along our route that the scientists can then compare to their findings from the plane! This is called “ground truthing.” On that note, do not miss the chat on the topic of Climate Chaos with our own GoNorth! Cool Scientist Dr. James Foster of NASA on Wednesday April 28th at 10 AM CT. Dr. Foster has been working on ground truthing
in the field for years!

Polar Husky Suerstar Qannik  
While we might not have huge machinery, we do have the mighty Polar Huskies! This week’s first Polar Husky Superstar proves power is not all about size! Qannik is the smallest in the kennel by far, though you may not think when you see her long flowing fluffy coat. What Qannik does not have in size she has in heart. Not only is she extremely sweet and loving with people and Polar Huskies alike, Qannik is very playful and happy with a great outlook no matter what obstacle is in our way. This trait is actually priceless. While the strongest may give up if they do not believe, those that keep a good attitude when the going gets tough are ultimately the ones that are most valuable to the team!

Explore the temporary Polar Husky
dog yard at Thule Air Base!
Can you find Qannik and Goodie?

         Polar Husky Suerstar Goodie
It is not to say that we would want to go without the tremendous power of this week’s second Polar Husky Superstar, Good Thunder. Named by Aaron’s Mom for his hometown back in Minnesota, Good Thunder was a Native American Chief famous for his strong leadership and authority. While still at times a bit of a young brat, our Good Thunder too carries himself with much confidence demanding respect from everybody else in the kennel. At times he can actually be a bully about it as he is establishing his leadership in the kennel. That said, Goodie, as we call him, is a really happy guy as well as a goof. He loves nothing more than to throw his huge body on the ground and roll over begging for a good belly rub! The next minute he springs to his paws throwing himself in the harness with all his might - ultimate power!