Packing up Summit Station

Today, the entire summer crew as well as other staff gave their final goodbyes to Summit Station. It was a busy couple of days, with the crew trying to close and organize the entire station, yet still be functional. One of the big jobs was to build a six-foot high berm to store all of the stuff needed over winter and next summer. The berm was built to keep all the gear from getting drifted in this coming winter.

Six-foot high berm at Summit Station
Six-foot high berm at Summit Station used to keep equipment, materials, supplies and gear above the expected drifting snow this winter.

The winter crew will maintain the remaining structures on the ground using the large snow machines. There will only be five people here for the next 8-9 months. They rotate crews every three months. To get here, they fly in a ski-equipped twin otter instead of the huge C-130.

Air Greenland - Ski-equipped Twin Otter
Air Greenland - Ski-equipped Twin Otter used to transport the winter crews back and forth from Kangerlussuaq.

The summer construction crew finalized their projects and packed up for the season. Many of them look forward to heading back to work or to Antarctica to pick up more work in the Polar environment, after a few week in the states.

Shannon - Construction crew member at Summit Station
Shannon - Construction crew member at Summit Station. Building a structure for gear to go on the last flight.

I decided to make my final tour of Summit Station via cross-country skis. I started with a journey down the ski-way. I thought I could ski to the end and back (15,000 feet) but that was not going to happen! The illusion of objects being closer than they are applies in the arctic. When I started on the skiway, I thought, I’d reach the end in 20 to 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I was nowhere near the end of the ski-way, so I turned around and met Nico at one of the berms to find some vertical. One of my goals, as a ski instructor, was to ski at the summit of Greenland. Since the top of the ice sheet is flat, I had to improvise. The summer crew built huge berms to store gear above the drifting snow. The berms were approximately six feet high. Nico and I climbed the huge hill and proceeded to ski the entire six feet of vertical at Summit Station!  What a blast!

Nico skiing down the berm.
Nico skiing down the six-foot high berm.

Me skiing at Summit Station, Greenland.
Me skiing at Summit Station, Greenland

After skiing, I explored the deserted Tent City where I’d spent a week sleeping on the ice. The crew did not mess around. Just a few hours ago, there were five tents up and they required lots of work to disassemble. I also noticed two interesting red objects. With closer inspection, I discovered they were sleeping quarters! Visiting researchers and scientists typically use the larger red structure, known as the “tomato”. The smaller pod, called the “PolyPod “ is used on expeditions on the ice sheet. Specifically for the ICESAT Transect projects where researchers travel 3-4 hours away from camp. The PolyPod is equipped with a Trimble GPSA Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system used to track the location or position of objects on the Earth’s surface. and survival equipment, just in case! The cost of the PolyPod is estimated to be $70,000. Wow, that’s more expensive than my first house! I guess if your survival is at stake, then the extra money is worth it.


The Poly Pod snow camper.
The Poly Pod snow camper, equipped with Trimble GPS and arctic survival gear.

Tina, the camp cook, made an incredible dinner for the last night of the summer crew. The menu consisted of potato pancakes, strip steak with roasted peppers and mushrooms, fresh green beans and carrots and fresh salad. She topped off the experience with home made truffles, one set coated in powdered chocolate and one coated in melted chocolate. Yum, yum!

The last meal at Summit Station.
The last meal at Summit Station.

My final night in Summit was spent in the Big House. That was quite the treat since it was my first night in a week where I slept with heat. The picture below shows where I spent many long nights working on my journals and schoolwork.

My work area for the week.
My work area for the week at Summit Station.

The final hours at Summit were spent trying to remember the great memories I had there. As I type this journal, “Commander” is playing his guitar and singing songs that create a special feeling and sense that Summit Station is a place that is like no other. The ingredients of location, facilities, people and food make Summit a unique place that will never be forgotten.

The Big House - Sunset
The Big House - Sunset




Mary C Charest

how much is the Tomato -- do you get a discount for more than one? I am thinking about desert tiny homes that can withstand the harsh winds, hail, sun, etc. Please email me with info. Thanks.