Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Monday, September 13th, 2010

We cling to the hope to visit Petermann glacier this year. By 7 Sept, the only option became an alternative helicopter charter company, Air Greenland. A new charter agreement requires more time than would fit in my additional week in Greenland, time, that is to re-arrange the fuel needed to make this long lap and draw up more paperwork. Key in the delay was: there were insufficient fuel drums of a very certain kind in Qaanaaq and in Thule AFB. Air Greenland has new and more strict guidelines for fuel drums. Another complication: because we aim to re-activate the equipment and not just do a “grab” operation, we can’t just use a volunteer who is already there, a “frozen chosen” that is. We need someone familiar with the equipment and who’s judgment we can rely on, for example, whether or not to fly in marginal conditions and at great expense. We therefore plan for it to be one of us (Jason, Alun, Sam, or Richard) on this flight, some time before mid-October when the days become too short to get the flight in with light to fly by. I (Jason) am now back in the US. Needless to say, it was difficult to turn south without the data. U. Wales collaborator, Alun Hubbard has volunteered to be the man to fly on “Plan-Z”, October 2010. I have prior commitments. If not this year, then, we aim for March, 2011. The March, 2011 trip I can be on. It would probably be Jason and Alun making the March, 2011 mission.

Petermann data recovery planning continues

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

…more yo-yo-ing in the past days. One learns to avoid assumptions. We have workable day length at 81 degrees north until mid October. In the latest scenario, it is not me who does the data recovery lap. It may just be a “grab” operation done by someone already living up there.

heading north to Qaanaaq

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I write as I rush off to the heliport. I am going north. Flights became available, meaning our guy in Qaanaaq are coming south. They have to. And I am heading north. My return home is delayed 1 week. May my wife forgive me!

Petermann Ice Island runs aground

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

“What we see now, is that the northern winds that have been active the last days is pushing this large berg southwards and not having reached the open Basin, Joe Island happens to be in the way – as so often before with large floe that may stay there for days and weeks. Joe was the Canadian eskimo that joined the Polaris expedition to Nares Strait 1871-73 like Hans Hendricks [see Hans Is.] and found himself on the floe that drifted southwards in Baffin Bay.” – Preben Gudmandsen

This 3 September European Space Agency Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) image ‘sees’ through the clouds. The glacier ice is a mid-grey color. The remaining glacier is seen on the right. On the left is the ice island that has encountered Joe Island. Joe is visible as the small collection of bright white pixels. Petermann Ice Island ran aground on 1 September.

I took this photo of Joe Island 15 July, 2009 from the air as we approached the Greenpeace Motorized Yacht Arctic Sunrise. The lack of sea ice was caused by the formation of a blocking “ice arch” north of this area. See here.

Gambo: Mission Possible

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Nolwynn – “We’ve been out of the ice this evening by 4-5 local time, and we are now sailing on open water with just some big iceberg.

We have made it south of the narrows after some significant detours during the ice to avoid a couple of major ice rafts.  It looks like we will be back in Quannaq in approx 7hrs (i.e. 7-8pm today).Journey trough the Kane Basin was quite easy and by some way faster than the way up north. The ice condition where slightly different (maybe a bit more loose) but some passage should have been really hard if the wind where picking up. We had to pass through new ice of 3cm thick which was still manageable even if we could feel than Gambo was slowed down by the hard job of cutting this.

The weather as been steady during the 2 days of this quick trip north : almost no wind or light wind from N-NE of 5-10kts, some fog over night, and a temperature around -1C. We had a really nice day of sunshine over the way north, and we could see the cloud overcasting the next morning due to the low pressure on the zone.”

Gambo at 80 degrees N

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Gambo has surpassed 80 N having set up a depot for the still delayed helicopter mission. Whilst returning south, the crew will carry out oceanographic measurements in the area that follow on what we did last year with Arctic Sunrise. The ice conditions are not easy for them. The surface is freezing at times. The crew is eager to return south from this exposed position…

The MODIS image Gambo used most recently. The image has been compressed so it could be downloaded by the boat’s Iridium link.

email from Gambo crew morning of 1 Sept, 2010…

from Richard… across Kane Basin in front of Humboldt was passable although a lot of weaving was required at times.  During the last 24hrs the wind dropped significantly which helped not move things about.  If winds picks up the situation could get a lot more difficult. From here the passage to the west towards Kennedy channel looks not too bad close to the shore however the main channel is certainly a lot more clogged up.  This was particularly so for the start when we came around Cape Alexander and Etah.  We could go out this way and have a look but I am not sure of the scientific merit in trying to push north.  Yes, we could drop some CTD in the middle of the channel and that might show water temps of interest but without a complete cross section, I wonder what could be done with the data.  If we made it up to the Petermann ice island, we could photograph it but I wonder from the view point of Gambo what another bit of rotten ice would really say. From here East the passage looks okay and we might negotiate it to Humboldt glacier front.  However, we certainly could not make a transect back south close in to the glacier. To return [south], we would re-trace as best passage as we might find across the Bay and there is the possibility of cutting out 2/3 of the way south to try and head for the south side of Humboldt where we did most of our measurements last year.

Skip Nowak [Nolwenn] here, As Richard told nicely, we got lucky so far and we enjoy the passage although it was hard some time and exposed if any floes started to move. On the MODIS image, the ’empty’ area are still pretty full even if we can find a passage in zigzag on it. I will say to don’t push the chance too far. The sea water is already starting to freeze at some point, and I am not sure I want to see how thick Gambo can pass through. So I do not want to hang on here any more than an other hour or/go any further north. For the ocean sciences I agree with Richard, and will see what we can do, but don’t expect much. Otherwise moral is good, will be much more un-stressed when I will be back 100NM souther than here, even if I am really enjoying the sailing on sea ice!

Hi guys, it’s Tom. Great to be here, very exciting to be in such a wild place! We’ll all be happier when we’re back in the open water of Baffin Bay I think. A pleasure to sail with Gambo though, thanks for having me along!

Hi, Christine here…what a spectacular trip! Today was particularly interesting sailing through the sea ice, if pretty hair raising at times. We’ve all commented that we didn’t think we would even make it this far and it seemed touch and go at some points passing through the thicker ice. I’m also of the opinion that we have had great luck so far but we should quit while we are ahead and get south as fast as possible. It looks like ice conditions can change pretty quickly round here and we saw quite a lot of fresh surface ice forming today…if we had a couple of cold nights, Gambo could get into quite a bit of trouble. However, I’m really excited that we have made it this far and have helped out the helicopter operation. Anyway, thanks Alun for persuading me to come up North after the field season…I have had an amazing time so far…what an experience!

Hi, it`s Max, i will not write a roman…I`m not good at that!!!  We`ve done a really good trip to this place and the team is perfect ! And for the next event, The more quickly we will leave this Kane Basin, the more happy i will be… It`s a kind of big trap here. But i hope you will do good work here, and i wish you. See you soon.

Petermann Ice Island drifts into Nares St.

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The ~250 square km Petermann floating ice “island” has drifted into Nares St. The drift out of Petermann fjord has been slow, as tides wash in and out and the berg was jammed in the fjord 20-25 August. Prevailing winds blowing toward the south will push the berg in that direction.

29 August MODIS image

update from SV Gambo

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Hi Alun and Jason,

We are making good progress and weather is holding.  Managed to download the grib files so we are able to plan passage to best efficiency.  However, we are burning fuel at 7kts and so we will need 500lt of diesel when we get to Qaanaaq and of course the same when the boat returns to Qaanaaq.  At Qaanaaq there is no harbour/wharf (at least there is none marked in the Arctic Pilot and I do not remember one from our visit last year – can you check on this with locals or on google earth).  The fuel for boat and heli will likely therefore need to be brought down to the shore so that it can be towed out to boat on arrival.

Schedule as predicted from here – please comment on:

  1. Arrive in Qaanaaq late afternoon/early evening Sun 29th.
  2. Fuel up immediately and depart for Wright Bay
  3. Arrive Wright Bay afternoon Tuesday 31st
  4. Tuesday 31 Petermann??
  5. Wed Petermann??

The science plans for the boat could include the following dependent on weather and ice:

  1. Petermann – the [very optimistic] golden opportunity – CTD in fjord on transect cross-section in front of present calving/melting front
  2. Humboldt – the more likely scenario – CTD transect across the deep channel that leads to the front of the glacier. This could be done approximately along the southern CTD transect that was done last year

Friday 3rd Quannaq return.

Please can you be sure to have every thing ready in Quannaq when we will arrive Sunday (ie: 4*200lt Jet A1 + 500lts diesel)

Richard & Nolwenn

helicopter red tape

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

In short, our flight plan to reach north Greenland by private charter has run into a bureaucratic wall. I will update as our prospects change. The weekend now means we may have no solution until next week. The delays are setting in. Meanwhile, Gambo continues to make progress northward. The crew won’t waste time to bring on fuel drums to then re-position to Kane Basin. Now, it’s likely Gambo will be waiting for us. And that’s the optimistic scenario.

lumpy seas ahead

Friday, August 27th, 2010

We just got a txt message updating sailing vessel Gambo’s position. She’s making good northward progress through a largely ice-free Baffin Bay. The graphic below illustrates the latest plan with helicopter rendezvous with Gambo in Qaanaaq. Gambo’s ETA in Qaanaaq is 2 days form now, as is that of the helicopter.

Provided that Gambo does not go any further west than it has to, she will avoid the worst of the 25 kt wind jet through Smith Sound, that mark the southern end of the channel between northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Is. Once into this channel, the sailing adventure is somewhat more committed, with sea ice, rough seas and high winds. Presently, Gambo is as we say, in the “lee of the land”, with “lumpy” seas ahead.

David Decker is providing daily weather forecasts to Gambo. Myself and Alun are in daily telephone contact with Gambo’s crew.