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John updates us on the tour to date

by Guest Blogger

June 29, 2005

John is on board in a combination logistics and wilderness safety capacity. He’s also a member of the One World Expedition team.

After leaving Iceland, we have had a relatively smooth trip across the Greenland Sea North West to the East Coast of Greenland.

The good ship Arctic Sunrise has been a hive of activity in preparing the equipment for the summer in Greenland. Boats have been checked, the dry suits and lifejackets and all the polar clothing have also been checked, and plans have been made with the forthcoming science programs.

I have been involved with training personnel in glacier travel, and getting used to the specialized equipment. I have also been on “watch” twice a day for four hours. This involves keeping a safety watch from the bridge, checking lashings, doors and engine room, cleaning and repairs to equipment and assisting the navigator on duty.

The sea conditions have been fairly good with a following swell of about ten feet (3m) for the first two days. Then the first fields of sea ice were spotted, and we skirted these to seaward to maintain speed.

After about one and a half days in pack ice, we traveled into Scoresby Sound this morning. At about 08:00 we were in the large sound, about 25 miles (40km) southwest of the entrance to Hurry Fjord, about 37 miles (60km) west of the town Ittoqortoormiit. This fjord is the world’s largest, around 219 miles (350km) long, 32 miles (52km) at its widest with a 17 mile (28km) entrance, and up to 4,785 feet (1,459m) deep. There are a series of smaller though still spectacular fjords linked to this great sound. We are flanked by mountains on all sides that reach 6,068 feet (1,850m) to the sky, with ice caps and glaciers alongside these peaks.

We are heading towards Nordvestfjord to conduct glaciology on Daugaard Jensen Glacier. This all depends on traveling around or through the rotting winter ice and pack ice, how long and far we will travel towards it before using the helicopter to transport us there.

The glaciology work, by two University of Maine scientists, consists of installing stakes in the glacier a bit over half a mile (1km) back from the calving front, and monitoring them by Differential GPS to determine the speed. This could take two to three days. Due to the dangerous crevasse fields, all participants need to be roped up for glacier travel. They would each wear boot crampons (12 pointed steel spikes attached to a strap-on steel sole), carry an ice axe and be roped together with dynamic climbing rope to arrest their fall in case they slip into a crevasse, a slot up to 820 feet (250m) deep.

It was beautiful and exciting to once again be looking at the surrounding mountain ranges last night in the beautiful golden twilight. Of course the coastline southward along the rugged Blosseville Coast brought back the very difficult conditions Lonnie and I faced in 2001. Steep 1,600-foot (500m) cliffs, bare rocks along the shores devoid of flora and relentless pack ice caused us a lot of heartache and sore muscles during long daily paddles between places to get out and camp.

Hopefully we will be able to start the glaciology work in the next day or two.

-John

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