Week 12 Storm

Date Posted: 5.10.2010
Location: 76º47'N 64º36'W
Weather Conditions: Storm 0ºF (-17ºC)
“Can you feel it in your ears?” Aaron asks Mille... “At first I have no clue what he is asking me – but then I feel it in my forehead!!” says Mille. Seriously, we know it sounds crazy, but as we are writing this, we are literally feeling the atmospheric pressure changing! It is really uncomfortable; none of us have ever experienced anything like it before. Mille goes on, “It’s making me feel all woozy!”. Looking at our barometer, it jumped: the atmospheric pressure is now at 1005 millibars

  Listen to this storm in the tent
(mb). For four days it has hovered around 991 millibars (mb). Gale force winds have been pounding us again out of the northeast. Last night we cheered out loud as the barometer snuck up to 994 mb. The sky cleared and it was gorgeous indeed, but not for long. All too soon the fierce wind kicked back up, this time with even more force. “It’s so intense it takes your breath away out there!” exclaims Aaron.


  Watch the storm from the vestibule in one of our tents 

  Watch the storm outside



  Explore our camp being hit by the high
  winds as we are writing now. Can you
  find the other tent?

[image left: The generator fort - notice the yellow extension cord running into the tent!]

He is just in from setting up ‘a fort’ around the generator to protect it against whipping snow. Like sand, it finds its way everywhere through any cracks and into every gap, including those inside of a motor. Unlike last week where we could power up using solar power, this time around to keep all the computers running we have to burn some gas using our small generator. That, despite Aaron coming up with a brilliant system to tie the solar panels on top of one of the sleds during the day as we are dogsledding, hooking it straight into and juicing up the gell-cell battery below the load! However, we simply have not had enough sunlight in the last week to recharge the batteries... To be exact, we have had one day without a storm this week. Just one day.

         Aaron next to his and Andrea’s tent in its
       snow-crater caused by the storm
    Watch as we dig out, about to set out on
  the one day of beautiful weather we
  have had this week!

As you know if you read last week’s update, we were sitting in a blizzard then. The day after education day we were still grounded, the wind and snow raging outside the tents for another two nights. Finally (!) we then woke up to a beautiful blue sunny sky - and lots of digging to get done! The snowdrifts around our camp were upwards of 5 feet deep and before we could get going, the sleds as well as the tents had to be freed. “The sleds are dug out using the shovel, and considering how buried they were, it went surprisingly fast!” says Brant. Not so with the tent. They have to be dug out by hand. “When you dig out a tent, you actually have to do so very gently,” explains Andrea. Each tent becomes engulfed in a crater of snow created by the forces of wind funneling snow around it. The tie-out ropes on each side and the ends of the tent, stringing it and holding out the heaving tent walls to withstand the gales, are cemented into the banks of the snow crater. The snow flaps are cemented too. Flaps that skirt the bottom of the tent, we shovel chunks of snow onto them when we set up the tent to not let the winds underneath the tent since that would rip it apart. Now weighed down, the tent is literally frozen in and blasted over, every inch of its fabric is taut. It takes barely the touch of a dull edge or the slightest of pull to rip the fabric that just separated us from the most vigorous forces of nature. So taking them down is done with a tender touch. Mille grins “Yeah, you grow such serious admiration and almost an odd love for these tents.” We are so dependent on them that, “...  if it requires digging them out with a spoon to make sure nothing goes wrong once we have been through a blizzard like this, well, then that’s what we will do!” adds Andrea laughing.

Good Thunder and the rest of the Polar Huskies were happy too on the day we could dig out after the last storm  

Despite the caution, we actually did get a small tear in a front wall on the one tent. The plan was to fix it right away. But, the first night back on the move we did have a bunch of stuff to attend to first – like filling up fuel bottles for the tent stove and re-supplying our tent-food-bags in which we carry one week’s worth of food. Moving to get freed in the morning had been rewarded with a terrific day of travel. The Polar Huskies simply cruised despite the fact that we climbed some 1500 feet (500 meters) further above sea level in a mere five hours. The climb was helped by the fact that the Greenland Inland Traverse team and their huge machines and loads of cargo were not far ahead of us paving one dream of a trail for the first two-thirds of the day, until we passed them in late afternoon.

  No Trail, No Nothing. Watch It!


[image right: Polar Huskies breaking trail as the storm began]

It was mid-day when they passed us again the next day. Disappearing off in the distance we actually thought that might be it for our tracks crossing! However, to our joy we caught up with them again a few hours later. It turned out though that they were calling it a day. Once again it was their turn to wave us off as we passed around their machines to break trail ahead, this time Aaron skiing out ahead as the visibility seemed to be closing in on us. It was mere minutes, and they were gone. We could no longer see them. We were in a storm, out of nowhere, again. But, for three solid hours, with Disko by her side, Lightning led our team through a white space. “Lightning simply moved herself into the ranks of great lead dogs with her phenomenal performance in that white-out,” marvels Mille, “there was no telling up from down, whatsoever, she took my few commands with such finesse keeping us going on a straight arrow along our bearing. She literally took us within feet of our route on the GPS when we finally stopped to make camp!  It was simply awesome to be part of!”



  Watch how we make water with Aaron!

  Watch how we cook dinner, what we
  do with our garbage and more!

[image left: Andrea and Brant filling bottles of fuel for the tent stove]

We have been sitting in the tent for a long time! We have been - reading books, magazines, playing cards, doing chores, cooking, drying clothing, digging holes for the dogs, drying clothing, feeding the dogs, drying clothing, checking the dogs, drying clothing, making water, sleeping, getting up at 5 in the morning and getting ready for departure in case the weather would lift, watching the barometer, going outside to adjust the tents to make sure all is good, drying clothing, reading the same magazines again, listening to the nor’easter… and well, trying to keep our minds from focusing too much on what is going outside the tent walls, when we are not outside that is. It’s pretty amazing to be here on the ice sheet and start thinking about what is happening around us!

         Mille, Andrea and Aaron having a nice lunch
       sitting on the ice sheet!
We have not seen any animals or any tracks since we came up here - no birds flying above us! But then again, the ground underneath the surface of this snow is thousands of feet and meters below. No lemming can live here, with nothing they can dig down to to eat. Same for the snow hare! So, that means no food for an Arctic fox to prey on! Just like the Kalaallit people here in Greenland, Greenland’s animals would be nearby the coast line to find resources and not in on the middle of the massive ice sheet, the direction we are heading. Yet, this massively impressive ice sheet is still such an important place to the climate and all life here on earth, because of its important role in the water cycle and the health of our oceans! Speaking of oceans--don’t miss this week’s chat on Wednesday at 9:00 AM with Dr Lisa Suatoni from the Natural Resource Defense Council on the topic of Climate Chaos. Have you watched the movie or even the trailer for the movie Acid Test yet? Lisa hosts a big part of the movie!

Polar Husky Superstar Baffin  
Just as the value of the ice sheet might be easy to miss, it can also be easy to miss the magnificence of this week’s two Polar Husky Superstars: Baffin and Chukchi. While they are both very distinct in their looks, neither of these two guys are in your face so to speak. However, don’t be fooled!

Baffin is one of the hardest workers in the kennel. A very sweet soft guy with people, he likes to be left alone by the other dogs. We often joke that if Baffin one day realizes just how massive and powerful he is, there are a lot of Polar Huskies who better look out! For now, Baffin gets easily annoyed with them and quite possibly he will give anyone of them a scary looking growl if they are being a bother. But at the same time, that is really just mostly noise as he is a pretty mellow guy who likes to have peace. Funny enough, one of his best buddies is crazed little Luna. She may look a lot like Baffin, but Luna is as wild as he is mellow and as little as he is big. Nevertheless, as Luna has been training for most of the year running in wheel with Baffin, he has done his best to teach his incredible technique, elegance and hard work ethic. Baffin is a good and patient teacher!

         Polar Husky Superstar Chukchi

Out here on the expedition, Baffin has been running mostly with Luna’s brother, this week’s other Polar Husky Superstar - Chukchi. Chukchi already has a phenomenal work ethic and technique! Despite the fact that under his furry coat is one of, if not the smallest male in the kennel, he is a pulling machine who can actually start a 1400 lbs (some 650 kg) sled all by himself. He has proven that several times since we set out with the dogsleds on this expedition! Chukchi is very shy with new people - but, he is a super-happy-playful guy, who pretty much doesn’t move around like most… he bounces! Like Baffin, Chukchi likes peace, he is not easily provoked and he prefers to be good buddies with everybody. Frankly, while Chukchi right now is spending a lot of time running in the wheel position in the back of the team, he is no doubt both highly intelligent and very attentive, and it would not surprise us at all to one day see him running in the lead moving the team forward with his great spirit - storm or no storm!