July 23, 2010 NEEM Delayed
Today was a day to learn about some of the vagaries of Arctic research and travel. We woke up this morning to a low cloud ceiling with just a bit of light on the horizon. Last night we were told to have our bags out ready to be loaded on the cargo pallet before breakfast. So we all rolled up our great sleeping bags (that kept us warm and toasty in our tents on the ice sheet) and had our bags ready before we headed off to breakfast, thinking that we would be leaving Summit Camp for NEEM shortly before noon. After breakfast we had the daily camp update and at that point everything still seemed on schedule. Following breakfast, Ben, the camp medic gave an interesting presentation on altitude sickness and a demonstration of the Gamow Bag which is used as a treatment. Since the elevation of Summit is 10,000 feet, many visitors feel some sort of effects from the altitude. The Gamow Bag is an apparatus that allows a patient to be treated for altitude sickness by increasing the pressure around them, thus simulating being at a lower altitude. At Summit, the Gamow Bag effectively lowers the altitude to around 5000 feet which most people can handle. One of the key lessons learned during Ben's presentation is that it is important to treat altitude sickness at the first appearance of symptoms. If you catch it early, treatment can be effective, but if you wait too late the only thing that will help you is to be evacuated to lower altitudes.
After Ben's presentation we got the news that the flight to NEEM had been canceled for today and that they were going to pick us up and take us back to Kanger if the plane could get into Summit. NEEM was having a big snowstorm and at this point there was light snow at Summit and the visibility wasn't very good, but was improving. At this point we settled in to wait for news that the plane had taken off from Kanger. A little after ten we heard that the plane was on the way and once they got to Summit would be on the ground for about an hour to offload fuel. We ate lunch a little early and made sure we had all of our things together so that we would be ready when the plane arrived. As we were waiting for the plane we got news that they had canceled any attempt to fly to NEEM on Saturday as well.
Once we got to back to Kanger we got the updated plan for the rest of our trip. Tonight we will hear a presentation from one of the NEEM scientists who is in Kanger. Tomorrow we will head out to visit Kelleyville Upper Atmosphere Research Station and there is hope that we will make a visit to NEEM on Sunday. We won't be able to spend the night there, but at least we can see the exciting science that is happening there.
The changing of schedules due to weather making flights impossible is just one of the realities of working in the Arctic.