Summit Station to Kangerlussuaq

The final hours at Summit were exciting yet sad. Many of the staff would be returning home after months of being away. They were very excited. I, on the other hand, was sad to see such a cool experience come to an end. I guess one of the cool things about Summit Station was getting here. So, at least I had the HC-130 trip to look forward to. We all loaded our bags on a cargo pallet and waited.

Gear on cargo pallet
Gear on cargo pallet

While I waited for the crew to unload fuel and load up the cargo, I got to spend some time with the new station manager, Ed Stockard. Ed is a polar region veteran, having worked in Greenland and Antarctica for many years. He said he was looking forward to a little piece and quite once the summer crew left. He will certainly get that, as there will only be five people working at Summit over the next three months. As I was talking to Ed, I noticed a very large camera sitting on his desk. I asked him if it was his and he said it was a gift from his wife, “She takes care of me”, he said. He then informed me that some of his photos have been published in popular magazines. He plans on getting a few shots of the Aurora Borealis this fall and winter, pending clear skies. I also asked Ed if he minds that my students call him throughout the next few months to find out more info on Summit Station and Greenland. He was very receptive to the idea and suggested we keep checking the Summit Station website: http://www.summitcamp.org/

Leaving Summit Station on the last flight of the season.
Leaving Summit Station on the last flight of the season.

Once we got the go ahead, we boarded the HC-130 and got comfortable for an interesting ride. First, we had to try to take off four times before the plane lifted-off. The pilots referred to the attempts as “slides”. With each slide, the plane becomes about 800-900 pounds lighter due to the spent fuel. At first, I was having my doubts that we would ever leave the ground. I was actually hoping that we would need to hook-up the rockets to provide 20% more thrust, but the fourth time was a charm. We were off to Kangerlussuaq. The trip was uneventful until I started to see some interesting features that I did not see on the way to Summit.

Large glacier entering fiord
Large glacier entering fiord

The glacial features were different and the water was loaded with icebergs. Then we made our to the shore and flew right over Ilulissat, a little town located right next to an iceberg chocked fiord. That was one of the most beautiful little towns I’d ever seen. The houses and buildings were very colorful and built right into the side of the mountain all the way down to the coastline. Over the hill, the most amazing icebergs and glacial remnants around.

Fiord with icebergs
Fiord with icebergs near Ilulissat

Movie of Illuisat flyover SAM_1238.mp4

As we continued our journey up the coast, we flew over some of Greenland’s most beautiful terrain. Ice carved terrain and water-eroded valleys themselves mile after mile. Eventually we came upon an amazing waterfall that was producing huge clouds of mist. The mist was reflecting the sun’s light creating beautiful rainbows. The power of water to erode the earth’s landscape was being demonstrated before our very eyes.

Movie of waterfall SAM_1247.mp4

The last hour of the flight, took us over more undulating terrain composed of hills, rivers, lakes, ponds, valleys, glaciers, and fiords until we ended up flying right up Søndre Strømfjord, aka Kangerlussuaq. The fiord is the longest fiord in the world and because the mouth of the fiord is located so far inland, produces the best weather in Greenland, essential for landing large planes. Kangerlussuaq also has Greenland's largest commercial airport.

The summer crew happy to be back in Kanger.
The summer crew happy to be back in Kanger.

Once on the ground, we boarded the military bus and headed to the KISS building. Everyone was excited to be in Kanger. The thought of a warm shower, good food and a warm bed made everyone smile. I immediately located a bike so I could explore the town a bit more. My first stop was the Jack T. Perry memorial bridge. The bridge is located over a rushing, glacial melt water river. The power of the river is overwhelming due to the turbulent thrashing of the water on the rocks below and the thundering sound was convincing as well.

View of Watson River looking west.
View of Watson River looking west. Downstream.

Video of river

I continued to ride my bike up the nearest hill and eventually made my way to Lake Ferguson

Lake Ferguson
Lake Ferguson

Here I was able to enjoy a little piece of Greenland, all to myself. I rode my bike up the technical climb to see if I could locate some of the native Musk Ox. Once I reached the top, I immediately noticed a few brown specs, wandering on the nearby hillside. I rode a little closer and verified by suspicion, Musk Ox. A herd of musk ox was feeding on the local vegetation; I estimate 8 or 9 of them. The closer I got the more they stared me down. I took a few more pictures and enjoyed the downhill ride I worked so hard to earn. A little gravity is good for the soul!

Technical climb up to the top of the ridge.
Technical climb up to the top of the ridge

Musk Ox above Lake Ferguson
Musk Ox above Lake Ferguson

Once down and back at the KISS building, I relaxed with the summer crew and enjoyed a nice Thai Curry Musk Ox dinner. After, dinner, I needed to get to bed, tomorrow, everything has to be packed and ready by 3pm. End of Season Party at 3:01pm until ? for EVERYONE.

More on Kangerlussuaq  and the journey home tomorrow.

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