Kangerlussuaq

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ambassador, Engineer, Musk Ox

This morning getting up early to look for birds, this time down by the rapids at the bridge, proved sadly fruitless. Except there were rapids, which was in itself neat.

After breakfast and through incredible serendipity combined with finagling by our project leader, we met with the United States’ ambassador to Denmark (which still retains some degree of control over Greenland), Laurie Fulton. She was on her way back from visiting a research facility further north, and graciously made time for us—and seemed genuinely interested and engaged! She is very involved in encouraging intellectual trade between the U.S. and Denmark. Denmark has been very committed to green technology since the seventies, and by sharing their ideas with the U.S., the U.S. need not reinvent the wheel. Likewise, she is trying to encourage researchers, especially those working in Greenland, to take on Greenlandic students and trainees to help elevate the level of education in the country, only one third of which are considered "educated." She was a very neat lady.

After that meeting, we had some time to kill, so a few of the other students and I went with Kees, one of the KU Geography professors that is along on the trip and visited Kangerlussuaq in the1980s, to find the Inuit ruins located near town. We did not find them. Instead we found a firing range, a caribou antler, and a very scummy pond with three minnows in it. Lunch at the airport was fantastic. Many kinds of cold cuts, delicious smoked and pickled fishes (salt cod and pickled herring!).

After lunch, we drove to NSF’s Sondrestrom Incoherent Scatter Radar Facility (we saw a couple of ducks in random lakes along the road, but they were all far away and horribly backlit. Curses!!). Our host there, Eggert, was the head engineer (from Iceland, wearing black socks, sandals, and shorts. He’s my favorite!) showed us around the facility, which shoots high-powered microwave and lasers into the atmosphere in order to measure fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. There were huge magnets, transformers, and an enormous satellite dish that looked like something out of a James Bond movie (incidentally, it replaced an older dish elsewhere that actually appeared in GoldenEye!!). We also got to hear about the dangers of building on permafrost, which then melts and causes buildings to shift, windows to crack, and pipes to break, all things that tend to be a concern as summers increase in length and temperature.

Dinner was had at the Polar Bear Inn, home of the best Thai in town. For real, it was AMAZING—I had musk ox panang!! This was followed by a hike to Lake Ferguson, where we didn’t see any more new birds (goes without saying at this point), but we did find the Kangerlussuaq rowing club, a sign warning passers-by about musk ox, and a rock with a musk ox painted on it. Now it’s time to bury my head in the blankets and try not to imagine the sun sneaking in around the blackout shades. Till next time…

—Hannah

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sky Sauce

Morning in Kangerlussuaq was not much different from afternoon or evening—sun shining cheerfully away, temperatures of around fifty degrees, and a light wind keeping away the hungry swarms of Satan’s air force known colloquially as “mosquitoes”. I got up early so I could get a first crack at wildlife, Greenland-style. It turns out KISS is right on the Watson River, which was a lovely morning scramble down fine silt dunes and over glacier- and water-carved rocks. I got my first looks of the trip at Snow bunting, Common redpoll, and Northern wheatear. On the way to breakfast at the canteen by the airport (where we will be eating our dinners as well) I spotted a raven.

After breakfast, we explored “downtown” Kangerlussuaq, which is heavily concentrated in approximately ten utilitarian buildings near the airport. This included a trip to the “grocery store”, where you can find oranges, pineapples, a variety of canned fishes, salt-covered licorice, beet salad, and waders. Pretty much all of the written labels and signs are in Danish, which not an area in which I am proficient. My great achievement at the grocery store was finding frozen torsk, or Atlantic cod. This may be the closest I get to a fish on the trip.

We spent the day driving and hiking around northeast of town, toward Russell glacier. We got to frolic on the tundra, which was delightfully spongy—like running on a wet mattress. There were lots of wildflowers, moss, lichens, and Lapland longspurs. There was also evidence of ptarmigans, but none were to be found. Too bad, but I’ll keep looking. We also climbed Sugarloaf, from which we got some AWESOME views of the glacier and fjord.

We then travelled further upriver and got our first looks at the ice sheet, which still seems very unreal, despite the fact the 80% of the people at KISS are various types of geoscientists, desperate to get out on the ice. Some Danes just came back from an attempt to get to Summit, the base of ice sheet operations. They got all the way there, and had to turn back without landing because one of the airplane’s engines failed, which would have made taking off from the ice impossible. They’re still in a pretty good mood, and helped us translate the canteen menu for the week. Sky sauce is “the fat and proteins that drip off the meat during cooking, and congeal into a sort of pudding”, which is a much more interesting way of saying “it’s gravy”.

Of special note: talk around KISS is that not only has the yearly thaw of the glacier come two weeks early this year, but so have the mosquitoes and the wildflowers. Is it a signal of climate change? Only time will tell.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ambassador, Engineer, Musk Ox

Day 2Day 3Day 2

This morning getting up early to look for birds, this time down by the rapids at the bridge, proved sadly fruitless. Except there were rapids, which was in itself neat.

After breakfast and through incredible serendipity combined with finagling by our project leader, we met with the United States’ ambassador to Denmark (which still retains some degree of control over Greenland), Laurie Fulton. She was on her way back from visiting a research facility further north, and graciously made time for us—and seemed genuinely interested and engaged! She is very involved in encouraging intellectual trade between the U.S. and Denmark. Denmark has been very committed to green technology since the seventies, and by sharing their ideas with the U.S., the U.S. need not reinvent the wheel. Likewise, she is trying to encourage researchers, especially those working in Greenland, to take on Greenlandic students and trainees to help elevate the level of education in the country, only one third of which are considered "educated." She was a very neat lady.

After that meeting, we had some time to kill, so a few of the other students and I went with Kee, one of the KU Geography professors that is along on the trip and visited Kangerlussuaq in the1980, to find the Inuit ruins located near town. We did not find them. Instead we found a firing range, a caribou antler, and a very scummy pond with three minnows in it. Lunch at the airport was fantastic. Many kinds of cold cuts, delicious smoked and pickled fishes (salt cod and pickled herring!).

After lunch, we drove to NSF’s Sondrestrom Incoherent Scatter Radar Facility (we saw a couple of ducks in random lakes along the road, but they were all far away and horribly backlit. Curses!!). Our host there, Eggert, was the head engineer (from Iceland, wearing black socks, sandals, and shorts. He’s my favorite!) showed us around the facility, which shoots high-powered microwave and lasers into the atmosphere in order to measure fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. There were huge magnets, transformers, and an enormous satellite dish that looked like something out of a James Bond movie (incidentally, it replaced an older dish elsewhere that actually appeared in GoldenEye!!). We also got to hear about the dangers of building on permafrost, which then melts and causes buildings to shift, windows to crack, and pipes to break, all things that tend to be a concern as summers increase in length and temperature.

Dinner was had at the Polar Bear Inn, home of the best Thai in town. For real, it was AMAZING—I had musk ox panang!! This was followed by a hike to Lake Ferguson, where we didn’t see any more new birds (goes without saying at this point), but we did find the Kangerlussuaq rowing club, a sign warning passers-by about musk ox, and a rock with a musk ox painted on it. Now it’s time to bury my head in the blankets and try not to imagine the sun sneaking in around the blackout shades. Till next time… —Hannah

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sky Sauce

FishGlacerBird

Morning in Kangerlussuaq was not much different from afternoon or evening—sun shining cheerfully away, temperatures of around fifty degrees, and a light wind keeping away the hungry swarms of Satan’s air force known colloquially as “mosquitoes”. I got up early so I could get a first crack at wildlife, Greenland-style. It turns out KISS is right on the Watson River, which was a lovely morning scramble down fine silt dunes and over glacier- and water-carved rocks. I got my first looks of the trip at Snow bunting, Common redpoll, and Northern wheatear. On the way to breakfast at the canteen by the airport (where we will be eating our dinners as well) I spotted a raven.

After breakfast, we explored “downtown” Kangerlussuaq, which is heavily concentrated in approximately ten utilitarian buildings near the airport. This included a trip to the “grocery store”, where you can find oranges, pineapples, a variety of canned fishes, salt-covered licorice, beet salad, and waders. Pretty much all of the written labels and signs are in Danish, which not an area in which I am proficient. My great achievement at the grocery store was finding frozen torsk, or Atlantic cod. This may be the closest I get to a fish on the trip.

We spent the day driving and hiking around northeast of town, toward Russell glacier. We got to frolic on the tundra, which was delightfully spongy—like running on a wet mattress. There were lots of wildflowers, moss, lichens, and Lapland longspur. There was also evidence of ptarmigans, but none were to be found. Too bad, but I’ll keep looking. We also climbed Sugarloaf, from which we got some AWESOME views of the glacier and fjord.

We then travelled further upriver and got our first looks at the ice sheet, which still seems very unreal, despite the fact the 80% of the people at KISS are various types of geoscientist, desperate to get out on the ice. Some Danes just came back from an attempt to get to Summit, the base of ice sheet operations. They got all the way there, and had to turn back without landing because one of the airplane’s engines failed, which would have made taking off from the ice impossible. They’re still in a pretty good mood, and helped us translate the canteen menu for the week. Sky sauce is “the fat and proteins that drip off the meat during cooking, and congeal into a sort of pudding”, which is a much more interesting way of saying “it’s gravy”.

Of special note: talk around KISS is that not only has the yearly thaw of the glacier come two weeks early this year, but so have the mosquitoes and the wildflowers. Is it a signal of climate change? Only time will tell.