Week 11 Hitting It Hard
Date Posted: 5.1.2010
Location: 76º28'N 66º02'W
Weather Conditions: Blizzard 15ºF (-10ºC)
Once again, the storm is raging, now on its second day. This time however, we are sitting in our tents on the leeward side of a large slope. Although we are on the leeward side, the wind is still hitting hard! Its Greenland’s ice sheet and whether up or down or whatever direction there is nothing to slow the wind down. As the wind rages out of the northeast, it’s ripping at us at full force. The tents, our home-sweet -home now, seem fragile. Thankfully, we stopped in time to get the
It’s day five. Andrea grins, “We are already about two-third the way up the glacier through the area riddled with crevasses.” The Polar Huskies have been hitting it hard since we hitched them up and set off on the journey!
[image left: Before takeoff we said goodbye, for now, to Tim going back home]
When we finally "set sleds" from Thule Air Base, we did not actually set sled. With warm temperatures and the sun baking around the clock, much of the snowy landscape around Thule had quickly turned brown with rocks and surfaces of gravel taking over. Thus, we opted for shuttling all gear, food and dogs on the back of the flatbed truck to Camp Tuto - a route that was a long gravel road that snaked across the tundra.
[image right: In Qaanaaq, Christine and community members welcomed hunters back after a successful polar bear hunt!]
Our expedition departure location was very fitting. Camp Tuto was established in the 1950’s to be the set-off point for expeditions and research. However, today there is really nothing there. Well, but our home for the night - a “fancy” insulated sea container with two bunks, a kitchen table and oil stove! With the dogs settled for the night and the sleds packed and ready to go, we enjoyed pizza brought on the last shuttle from Thule. “It was lukewarm alright,” says Brant “but with a glacier to climb ahead of us, it was more than delicious.” Finally, we were about to set off on dogsled - up, up, up to the top of Greenland!
[image left: Our first camp site on the journey ]
The steepest grade started at mile 4 (about 6 kilometers) and over the next three miles we climbed about 1,000 feet (some 300 meters). Marching on, we have run up and down long hills with the sleds always inching upwards. The base of the ice sheet, where we started, rises 1,200 feet above sea level and we will soon be at around 4,300 feet! The marching forward has been all with a little help from our friends as we have been dutifully gazing the horizon for green and black flags placed over the past five weeks by the Greenland Inland Traverse Team. A single green flag, placed every one-third to one-half of a mile means ‘straight ahead.’ A single black flag means ‘crevasse, but no wider than 30 centimeter (one foot).’ Three green flags means ‘be alert to change of direction.’ Two black flags in a cross means ‘crevasse wider than two feet is present, stay away, and do not approach.’
[image right: Getting passed by team GrIT!]
While one-half or even one-third of a mile maybe does not sound like much to you, when you are running in a wide open space of white at Polar Husky lead dog level, there is not much to be seen but... white! So, for most of the way the commands have been flying - “Gee Disko, geeee; Cha Disko, chaaaa.” While Disko patiently keeps taking command after command coming his way, sometimes less than 30-40 seconds apart, we are the ones who tire. We are also the ones to cheer out loud every time we saw Team GrIT appear on the horizon with their monster machines crawling the white hillsides like two huge bugs. The grade is too much for the GrIT machines to pull all of their loads at once so they have been shuttling. So, for the first many times the pleasure of strolling behind in their track was short-lived before they stopped to turn around to go back behind us. It was still some great breaks for us from breaking trail though! In fact, yesterday they set out on a long stretch ahead of us and we made some excellent mileage!
Speaking of flakes, is it not an amazing thought that the water drops that float in your local river may end up as part of Greenland’s ice sheet!? Explore the water cycle and the connection between the icebergs, rivers and climate with our own Cool Scientist, Dr. Max Holmes in this week’s chat about Climate Chaos on Wednesday, May 5 at 10:00 AM CT.
Domino is best buddies with his brother Tucker, just like Khan is the best of friends with his brother Disko. But otherwise, neither Khan nor Domino has too much patience with other Polar Huskies when running next to them - except their mother Nazca that is!
Domino is basically a spitting image of his mother except that he is a lot larger and more masculine. He is just as athletic too which is particularly impressive considering his size. Domino has two sides to him - he can be incredibly intense and fired up to go and he can also be super laid back. All he really cares about is hanging out with us and moving the sled forward. He is so powerful, strong and agile that he could have taken the position to be the alpha male in the pack as nobody really stands up to Domino. However, he has never moved for the position. He takes nothing from anybody and he just wants to be left alone to get the job done!
Khan on the other hand has much more of a temper on him - and never stands back…He always is ready to give it his all. From the time Khan was just a tiny puppy he would challenge everyone and everything -- that is still the way it is today. He is never deterred by challenges along the trail or in the past ten-thousand miles of Arctic expeditions he has under his paws. Yes, Khan is one of the oldest running Polar Huskies in the Kennel, but he is still one of the strongest
with a powerful pull hitting it hard with the rest of the gang!