Blog: “The Holy Graal is yet to be discovered”

Still snowing. Winter is coming early. Around zero. Snowflakes get bigger every day. And the fog. Fog stopping us from helicopter operations. The land team was brought back last Friday and hoped for a shower, a good meal, some sleep and to get out again. Now they are stuck on board. Cloud base is too low. Their equipment is still out there at Camp site 1. Weather came in and made us take all on board before it closed in. We have been planning for Camp Site 2 since then, but so far stayed at plans. We do many plans. Plans often altered due to change in conditions or more time needed for preparations. Change of plans is something that all on board have to live with. Plans changing is part of the expedition and all expeditions. We got to have a plan A, B and C at least. Yesterday we did manage to get two after noon flights, one for the Drift Wood team and one for the Sea Level History team. Both missions turned out great. Record of samples of wood and the other team vent far into the fjord leading to the other Ryder Glacier tongue. They also visited an archaeological site earlier documented and believed to be one of the first in Greenland. Still has to be dated.

Personer på däck vinkar mot kameran
Photo: Ulf Hedman

Onboard work continues. Mapping nighttime, and stations daytime. We have already mapped most of the fjord. The Holy Graal is yet to be discovered but for days now blocked by a gigantic iceberg that have calved of the front of the glacier reluctant to move away. Almost 6 kilometres long and 4 wide, the big piece will not move. We have been circling around waiting for an opening to sneak in but so far just waiting. Waiting while the snow is falling.

Isflak
Photo: Ulf Hedman

Winter is coming early

We have a backlog of flights we should have done. Things that needs to happen before it’s too late. Summer here is short. It could be a month but this year it seems to be a week. We are looking for all info we can collect. Weather and ice information lead our way. We get the information with a new satellite link with more capacity than before, but it is still not enough for our wishes. We live in a world without Internet. No browsing, a weak telephone possibility but we have email. We depend on email. We are used to unlimited access to internet and email. Here it is different. Only small emails are allowed, and we have so much to tell. So many images taken that we can’t send home. But we can tell stories about what we see and experience. Our mail service is at the limit. 1000 emails per day and we are 72 persons on board. Where is the time to write? Everybody is working all the time if not sleeping.

We managed to have a social event on Saturday evening. A Welcome dinner two weeks into the cruise. We all had dinner together and a nice time to talk and meet. 72 persons on board working shifts, not all of us meet daily.

Forskare arbetar vid isen
Photo: Ulf Hedman
Hav och snöklädda berg
Photo: Ulf Hedman

From frustration to success

It is frustrating to be so close to fill the whole fjord with mapping. We have gaps where the drifting pieces of ice shelf have been, and we could not reach.

At last we managed to reach the front. A gap opened along the north east shore and we could get in. We could map around that side of the floe and along the front. Two runs and a CTD was done and the inner fjord was closed. Our minds turned outwards again. We need to clean up first. We are missing one or two sediment cores and a CTD transect.

Is, vatten
Photo: Ulf Hedman

Buoy was lowered down with helicopter

How do you lift a 200 meters long buoy system with a helicopter and put it into the water? Originally the idea was to launch the system from the boat or something. An anchor, 900 meters of rope, instrument, 100 meters more rope, a buoy and a flag buoy were the intended set up. We could not really do that. 1000 meter of a very thin Dynema and in the end 50 kilo of anchor chain. No winch to reel out or in. But we have a helicopter. Whatever you can do, you can do it faster and better with a helicopter. And we have Sven. Sven have been flying with us since 2004. Experience of Arctic flying is essential, a must. Sven´s got it. Sven´s also got all these other things that makes things happen still safe. On an expedition you can do many things the unsafe way. Sven does it safe. So, lifting a modified Hydrophone system with helicopter becomes possible and safe. The system has two buoys two arrays to be lowered down 1000 meters below the sea surface listening to events of calving icebergs also completed by a camera taking photos of the front every 5 seconds, that is about 121 000 images per week to catch an event of falling ice.

We turned the hole whole thing around. 200 meter rope the buoy in the middle sensor and anchor in the end of the 100 meters below the buoy and 100 meters above leading to the poles drilled into the ice for attaching the rope. The float will stay just below the floe edge and the rope up to the pole will not have tension, so it cuts into the ice. So, we lay it all out on the ice, anchor, instruments, buoy, did the poles and attached the rope, hooked the anchor to the ling line under the helicopter and a lifted it up 200 meters. Helicopter in one end then 200-meter rope with dangling instruments and attached to a pole in the other end. But Sven does it all safe and controlled and the project lives.

Text by: Ulf Hedman

Last modified: 27 August 2019