Friday, March 23, 2012

Heading to Illullusiat

The team.
Six of us are headed to Northern Greenland to generally look at the effects of climate change on the Northernmost communities in Greenland. For the last two years Susanne Hanson from the Denmark Meteorological Institute, has been leading a two week expedition to Qaanaaq to work with the Greenlandic Inuit people to use their qualitative knowledge of the local climate to work on issues associated with climate especially sea-ice, fjords and the role of glaciers.

This year they invited us along to test out our robotic airplane. Peter Kimball is leading the charge and I am there to help.

Even though Qaanaaq, Greenland (Longitude -69°21'36"W) is almost due north of Falmouth (Longitude -70° 40' 50" W)  you have to zigzag your way there. Fly Boston to Copenhagen, and then an Air Greenland flight (Airbus330) to Kangerlussiaq. From there the planes get smaller (Dash-7/Dash-8) to Illulliassat and then to Qaanaaq. It takes three days to get up.
Downtown Kangerlussiaq.

By sheer luck when we got to Kangerlussiaq on Tuesday our onwards flight was delayed and Susanne (our leader) decided to wander over to the cargo area to check on the status of our gear (which should have preceded us north by a couple of weeks). Well imagine her surprise when she saw all our gear sitting in a forlorn pile in the warehouse. And it got better, as the gentlemen in charge of cargo told us that due to weather Qaanaaq had been shut down to cargo for a while and due to our low priority there was no way our stuff was going to make it for at least three weeks!

Well lots of words were exchanged in various languages eventually leading to a promise that Air Greenland would try to lay on a special charter flight to get our gear out on Friday. We all decided that we would stay in Kangerlussiaq to see how things settled out.

 A few hours later we were told that the special flight would not happen. At this point we were resigned to going home and some of us coming back in three weeks time. As a last ditch effort Susanne sent out emails to lots of people explaining the situation and asking for help in dealing with Air Greenland. We were not expecting much but the next day we got a message from on high that a special flight was on tap for us to get us and our gear out to Qaanaaq on saturday.
Edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. 

So we spent the next two days sitting in the airport hotel. We took a trip inland to see the Greenland Ice sheet which covers most of the island. We also hiked out in -25C to get some spectacular views. See attached pics.

As I write this message we are an hour away from getting on a plane that is sitting on the runway right in front of us. We are watching the guys load our gear onto the plane. We were all feeling really happy until we saw the fork lift with our gear get loaded skyhigh and have all the boxes topple off!

 I'm sure this happens on all airlines and at all airports but this was disconcerting to say the least.

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