By Susanne Lunz and Christoph Knöfel |
Sometimes one has to move quickly. We got the green light for our first flight after the daily weather brief in the morning which is short and sweet. We have half an hour to get ready, collect our gear, move it up stairs to the helicopter deck, don into the red Tempex, grab our helmets, and take our seats in the BK-117. What’s Tempex? They are red Das overalls to protect from adverse weather. We received these „suits“ along with other winter clothing from AWI. And off we are. The helicopter rises rapidly and with a wide turn it reaches its course over water into the mountains in the west. We first fly at about 900’ over icy seas until we reach Dijmphna Sound which constitutes a small arm off the so-called 79° North Glacier. We then must rise to about 5000’ to cross over the snow-covered mountains of the „Princess Caroline-Mathilde“ alps.
The beauty of the untouched wintery landscape takes our breaths away as we move along. Untouched, you say? Well, not really. We first find tracks of muskox which cross the snowy plateaus. Later we find these animals as tiny specks of brown on the ground. Now we got proof about how our destination point got its name. Someone named the GPS location of our station „MUSK“ when it was first established in 2009, because they, too, saw muskox. At this rocky location, we installed our sensors.
Our sensor system consists of a large and flat GPS antenna, a receiver to record the data and a battery that is recharged by solar panels to power the station. The set-up allows to measure antenna location very accurately. From repeated measurements over the years we can derive crustal deformation and uplift of the bedrock. The latter relates to the melting loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet.
We finished all work within an hour and were ready to fly back to the ship. During our station work the pilot Lars served as the obligatory polar bear watch even though polar bears are only rarely seen in these mountains. About 45 minutes and 70 nautical miles later, we are back aboard the ship. In a few days we will recover the GPS installation with data that will tell us if our efforts were successful.
Susanne Lunz und Christoph Knöfel, Technische Universität zu Dresden
(translated by Andreas Muenchow)