Success! We have completed the first of five stints of our expedition in Greenland. It turns out that the hike to Kuussup Sermia (the glacier in Narsarsuaq) was a lot more demanding than expected – luckily each summit we traversed and every kilometer we trekked had a spectacular and constantly evolving view that continued to amaze. We managed to sample meltwater near the toe of the glacier on five different occasions, totaling to >100km carrying absurdly heavy packs (filled with sampling equipment and many liters of meltwater) over terrain completely covered by an uneven distribution of rocks and boulders, making every step a possibility of twisting knees and ankles (for those of us who are naturally graceful this was not a problem, however, a few us -you know who we are- do not possess that trait). Fortunately, the in-situ data was worth it, it was interesting in seeing the daily fluctuations in water depth, and we had Cody with us to keep our spirits high with random fits of song…
On the 22nd Carli, Cody, and Emily underwent their longest trek yet (to the surface of the glacier), involving ropes for ascending a steep ridge and crampons for ensuring our feet were reliable on the ice. Every time we descended a stretch of trail we were begrudging because we knew we were going to have to come back up – and with extra weight from our surface samples. However, we stuck it through and when we set foot on the actual glacier (a part of the Greenland Ice Sheet!) the realization of the overwhelming enormity and fragility of this vast expanse of ice made us forget the temporary pains and aches we were experiencing. There was something quite surreal about collecting those samples that made us appreciate how fortunate we are to have this opportunity to gather data from one of the most unique environments on earth.
Once we finally made it back over and to the bottom of the ridge that had required us to use ropes, our work was not quite finished…. We proceeded to our usual spot near the toe of the glacier in order to collect our second set of samples of the day. It was a tough and long day the final stretch of our hike back nearly killed our spirits but when some friendly local Greenlanders offered to give us a ride for the final 200m uphill (because it obviously looked like we were struggling) put huge smiles on our faces. Our photojournalist, Mindy, had a warm dinner and red wine waiting for us upon our return to the hostel – we have honestly never been so happy/grateful in our lives (THANKS MINDY!!!).
The very next day we set out to sea in a fantastically powerful boat to dodge between the floating ice bergs to collect some data from both the main channel leading from the glacier and the local seawater so that we would be able to compare this data to our samples from the toe and the surface of the glacier. It was fantastic to finally be able to collect seawater samples at depth with the Niskin bottle that NOAA had lent.
In the end we all retired from the Narsarsuaq site with a healthy dose of blisters, mosquito bites, sore muscles, stories to entertain our friends at home with and hopefully an incredible data set! Carli and Emily headed to Ilulisat, Mindy went off to Kangerlusuaq, and Cody headed back to the states with his first glacial field season under his belt- his gift of song will be greatly missed.