Search Results for Tag: Greenland
Zackenberg Station feels more like a camp, ten blue huts and some tent-like shelters in a wide valley, with snow-topped mountains behind and the water of the Young Sound fjord below. It is equipped with everything the scientists need for their “High Arctic research”, including wet and dry labs and all sorts of electronic monitoring equipment, but it remains a camp in a very remote area. It was set up 1995-96 and officially opened in ’97. It’s still small and exclusive, for a maximum of 25 people. There are only 13 of us right now, including the two “logisticians” Phillip and “Tower” and the cook, Lone.
The dirt runway can only take the Twin Otter or helicopters. At the moment, starting mid-July, there’s a plane once a week, as this is the high season. Up to last year, there was only one a fortnight. The station is only staffed in summer, June to September, as a rule.
We newcomers had our essential safety briefing with Phillip, our logistician, first thing this morning: radio use, flare pistols and how to use a rifle (!) Phillip is clearly a man who knows how to look after himself, looks tough and wiry, always has a knife in his belt and is clearly a good shot. In his black gear, including “Zero” (Zackenberg Station Logo) T-shirt and tammy, he could belong to some crack army unit (or a James Bond film) and he gives you the impression he is not a man to be trifled with. Still, he’s very patient with a visiting journo who has never fired a weapon in her life.
No, I’m not thinking of applying for the army or even our local “Schuetzenverein” (German traditional local hunting and shooting clubs) after this, but we are advised it’s a good idea to know how to fire a flare pistol and a rifle, in case of emergency (polar bears or musk oxen, plenty of the latter around here, although so far I’ve only seen the droppings and the fluff from their coats, but then I’ve only been here a day).
I was quite surprised by this, only ever having been in places where weapons are only handed out to people with licenses and training. Things are different in Greenland. Even Lone, our new cook, had to have a go with the gun (fresh meat for the kitchen?!).
I’m sure the guys all ducked for cover when I made my attempts, and I don’t think the polar bears or musk oxen have much to worry about on my account. The weather is still incredibly good, bright sunshine around the clock and clear blue skies, fresh cool Arctic air. I headed out towards the “climate station” this afternoon (took the radio, declined the rifle), where Julie Falk from Copenhagen was trying to fix the Co2 monitor. I’m really impressed at her technical know-how.
She tells me she has no choice, in this remote location, but is frustrated about the problems of getting spare parts. We also had a look at the methane measuring station. Zackenberg came up with some headline-making results about methane emissions in the Arctic. Terrestrial wetland emissions are the largest single source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Zackenberg data provides hourly methane flux measurements from this high Arctic setting, into the late autumn and early winter, which means during the onset of soil freezing.
The scientists found out that the emissions fall to a low steady level after the growing season, but then increase significantly during the “freeze-in” period. Basically, the findings from here suggest that this could help explain the seasonal distribution of methane emissions from high latitudes, which had been puzzling scientists before. The methane is measured in glass traps which normally open and close automatically regularly and are linked to methane monitors.
Unfortunately, there’s a technical problem at the moment, but Julie was able to offload the data already logged there onto her laptop for the Zackenberg BASIC data base. More about that tomorrow, when I’ll be talking to our scientific leader Lars. If D. is reading this, remember you asked if this expedition would be very “physical”? Well so far everything here is being done on foot, with the ornithologists walking 25 km sometimes. So I think the answer is yes, and my trusty hiking boots are getting a good work-out.
DateJuly 17, 2009 | 9:01 am
I have the opportunity to send some of these promised pics, so here they come.
DateJuly 17, 2009 | 8:01 am
The plane from Akureyri to Constable Point was a Dash, a bit bigger than the Twin Otter that was to bring us on to Zackenberg, there were about 14 people on it. In addition to the eight of us going on to Zackenberg, there were two parties of geologists. The American beside me described himself as a “mountain-builder”, then went on to explain he was studying the composition and age of mountains. He drew my attention to an interesting theory his colleague is working on, that the increase in speed at which some glaciers are moving is responsible for the “ice quakes” we’ve been hearing about recently. Will have to follow that one up later.
The other lads from Cambridge, UK, were going to be helicopter-dropped somewhere in the middle of nowhere to set up camp for three weeks looking at sediment – research they sell to the oil industry. Again, we come to the Arctic warming up and the international interest in getting at possibly hidden natural resources.
The weather was cloudy when we left, but cleared by the time we got near Constable Point, so we got some reasonable views. But the best was yet to come. We shifted to the Twin Otter – two logisticians, those are the people who do all the technical running of the station, a new cook to join the existing one, the two Finnish insect specialists I met last night, an ornithologist, and an expert on lemmings, and me of course. The weekly charter to Zackenberg also brings the food supplies in, so the long-term residents look forward to fresh supplies.
The plane flies low, and our flight path went along the eastern coastline. Some perfect Arctic summer weather with sunshine and blue skies gave us beautiful views of sea ice, solid in places, at various stages of breaking up elsewhere, spreading in patterns with blue ocean in between and little ice-bergs, dazzling white above and greenish-turquoise on the edges just under water. The mountains on land are at different stages of emerging from their winter white. There\’s a mixture of rugged browns, sometimes an initial tinge of green, and glacier white. I have beautiful photos, I promise, but we have to be sparing with them until I’ve left Zackenberg and reached a place with an internet connection.
Zackenberg station took me by surprise, suddenly we were there and rapidly approaching a collection of wooden huts and containers and some tent-like structures. The snow in the valley has melted completely, just some white on the hill-tops, so it reminded me of Switzerland rather than the white snowy Arctic of previous trips. Well, it is summer. And now I know what’s attracting those entomologists. Two surprisingly warm weeks have brought the mozzies out in force.
DateJuly 15, 2009 | 2:53 pm
Late Night Ice
I wanted to go down and look at what’s known as “the harbour”, taking advantage of the long hours of sunlight. Lars, who’s the deputy scientific leader and in charge of the station at the moment, kitted me out with a vhf radio in case of emergencies. I followed “the road” (tracks made by the camp vehicle, a funny contraption with 3 wheels on either side) to the beach of the Sound and was rewarded by finding giant chunks of ice along it and spectacular views of the water in that special deep blue you get in the Arctic summer night.
DateJuly 15, 2009 | 2:45 pm
The Way to Greenland
Have arrived at Zackenberg station after a spectacular trip, with the weather perfect for the trip from Constable Point, our first stop in E. Greenland, and here. I have the option of either writing a longer entry here or sending a photo, as there is no direct internet access and our satellite connection only allows us emails of a small size. For today, I’ll leave the text in favour of a picture or two. More tomorrow.
DateJuly 15, 2009 | 9:54 am