July 8, 2008 – We got to sleep in this morning; we didn't need to be at the plane until 8:30 a.m. The check-in was much simpler: show up and get on. Still an LC-130, but this time with the skis down to land. The landing was better than many commercial flights! It was a shorter flight, too – about 2 hours.
When you land at Summit, even though you want to go, go, go because there is so much to see and do, you have to take it reeeeaaaal easy. The altitude is about 3200 m above sea level. The first, and most important briefing we have is about altitude sickness; how to recognize it and how to combat it. Deep breaths and moving slow while you adjust are key, along with keeping very well hydrated: drink lots and lots of water. The water is better than any high-classed, expensive, bottled water you can imagine. It's easy to keep drinking it! We just won't talk about the other issue when you are drinking water constantly in below freezing temperatures.....
Before lunch, we took a tour of the Sat Camp facilities, the Summit home of the Greenland Atmospheric Studies project. (look here to read about it and PolarTREC teacher Craig Beals' journal: http://www.polartrec.com/greenland-atmospheric-studies.) This was especially gracious of the group to welcome us, because they are breaking camp even as I write, so that they can end their season and return home. We learned about instrumentation housed in the small buildings located a short distance from the Big House, the central gathering place for the Summit community. We saw ion chromatographs, a SIMS (single ion mass spectrograph), radiometers and hydrocarbon sampling apparatus. The group is very interested in halogens (Group 17 of the periodic table), especially bromine ions. They hope to learn about the role of the sun in the presence of bromide in snow and ice. The sample snow under several conditions: different times of the day, different depths from the surface, in dark conditions (to simulate winter) and under different weather conditions to help them understand the origin of bromide in ice. The are also interested in several types of air sampling systems to further develop their picture. Hydrocarbons in the atmosphere can give some information since they have an interesting halogen chemistries. That analysis is not done at Sat Camp, and samples are shipped to California for a 6 column gas chromatographic separation. Very in-depth and detailed.
On our way back to camp, via electric snow machines (Sat Camp is in an area that is very clean air, clean snow and deisel machine use is avoided in the area to keep the experimental conditions optimal), we learned that a plane that was attempting to take-off was going to require 'jet-assist' since the skiway was too 'sticky' (meaning that the snow was not well packed enough, and the temperature was too warm to allow the plane to get enough speed to lift). This doesn't happen too often, and caused a flurry of activity among some of the scientists. The exhaust from the jets would cause a well documented 'pollution event' that they could feed into their data sets and maybe get some bonus information. And it was just a neat thing to see, so of course, we waited. On a very small scale, it was similar to a shuttle lift: a roar of combustion, and flames shooting behind the jet canisters as the plane lifts into the air.
After lunch, about half the group took a walking tour of the Camp layout. I stayed back (since we were promised this would happen again) since I wasn't too sure if the tiredness I was feeling was lack of sleep or some altitude adjustment. Got caught up with these journals, and had some good casual conversations with people that dropped by for a cup of coffee or to refill their water bottles.
Right around six o'clock, dinner is served and the community gathers for a pleasant social meal. And the food is excellent. Sure don't eat this well at home!! But you quickly realize that real research in these conditions is hard work, and the calories are necessary to keep you going. Walking in snow is difficult, and with all the gear on, I feel a little like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, or the little kid in a snowsuit with arms and legs straight out, struggling to move. It's very comical, but the efforts certainly keep you from feeling the cold!
We concluded today's events with a viewing of a video describing the GIST2 ice coring project. Although the bedrock was reached in 1994, the work continues with analysis of the cores raised, and with development of new ice core projects for comparison. The data from these can be compared with ice cores from Antarctica projects and help develop historical climate records for the Earth.
All this ties into our theme of sampling, and there are some good hands activities prepared for tomorrow where we will get to examine snow pits, and take snow samples, and, if the weather holds, witness a NASA spiral fly over that will assist data collection for one of the atmospheric studies.
Got to get a good night's sleep!
~ Kathy Gorski