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July 17, 2003

Summit? ...Denied.

If I remember right, we went straight from our Raven plane to the plane bound for Summit. .....

Tricky and some other folks had headed off to another camp that morning, and the media folks were sticking around Kanger for some reason or another, but the rest of us were off to Summit. We packed in, a flight made tight by a large amount of equipment, including one very large blue box brought by a German team which wasn’t really a box at all but a small building to house some experiements.

[The big blue box. Meg in foreground. Check out her flashy scarf, bought just the night before in town. Photo: Bjorn.]

After sitting a good while, one of the loadmasters stuck his head back to let us know they had a mechanical problem which would take a good 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours to fix. He got permission to let us off, and then Sparky—one of the VECO heads—had to argue a bit to get the military to let us go to dinner at the Polar Bear Inn. It was 6 PM, and dinner ends at 6:30.

[The Polar Bear Inn. Same rainbow as first night. Photo: Bjorn.]

I never really described the food in Kanger. We were given meal tickets for the Polar Bear Inn, the cafeteria-style eating establishement in town. Bacon and scrambled eggs and hard-boiled eggs and cereal and milk and pastries and sliced meat and cheese and wafer-thin chocolate and bread or rolls for breakfast, I never had a lunch, and then mystery meat and frozen vegetables and some style of potatoes for dinner.

It’s a good thing we went to dinner that night: the mystery meat turned out to be musk ox, and who wants to miss the opportunity to eat that?

After dinner, we were round back up and headed back up to the airstrip and were packed back into the Hurc. Only to be told that the weather at Summit had deteriorated, and they were no longer willing to fly there. So we unloaded.

What else to do? After checking back into our rooms, we went for a beer. We first went to the one bar in town, to find it closed, and then went to the one club in town, to find it open and empty. We went in anyway, bought six-dollar beers (ouch), and played pool. Then, we relocated to the Roost, the military bar which is run only when the military is in town. The military bar is a much better deal. $1 beers, including such favorites as Labatts and Miller Light. This night was a particular bargain—people were just putting money down on the bar, which meant that everyone drank whatever they wanted until the money in the pot ran out. Then, it was back to $1 beers.

For some reason, we weren’t scheduled to fly the next day until 5 PM again. We slept in, and then I came upon Bjorn and Florence, a new graduate student at CU, and the three of us went on a hike.

The weather was ridiculous. The wind had picked up with a vengeance, knowing that if it blew hard enough it could whip up sand and dust from the roads and the riverbed to sandblast anyone silly enough to brave the outdoors. We were silly enough. We had to be. How else were we going to see Greenland? Luckily, once we got away from the road there was no sand to blast us with and the wind was calmer in the removed valleys besides. We hiked along a large lake and then turned off up to a ridge and hiked along smaller lakes and then up again. Our goals were 1) to see a plane wreck from the 50’s and 2) to see musk ox.

[Fuzzy plants. Photo: me.]

The plane wreck was in a small lake-filled valley just out of site from the road and just up from town. I don’t know what the correct story is, but the story I heard goes: There were three planes returning from such-and-such to find the airstrip socked in. Whoever was in charge on the ground told them to fly to wherever they thought the airstrip was and eject, allowing the planes to crash. This was one of them. As I said, I don’t know if that’s the true story, so don’t quote me on it. Unless the quote is something like, “Beth doesn’t know the true story for sure, but what she *heard* was…”

What I do know is that we saw the picked-over remains of a plane, totally demolished.

[Florence and plane wreck. Impact crater is in foreground. Photo: Bjorn.]

Then, we headed up again, in search of more cool views and musk ox.

[Up on the ridge. Photo: me.]

Unfortunately, most of my beautiful photos are to large to upload here, including one very nice 360-degree panorama. So it goes.

[Glacial polish with striations. When glaciers slide over hard rock, like granite or gneiss (which is squished granite, usually), they smooth the rock surface into what's called glacial polish. The surface can be smooth-smooth-smooth. Bjorn and I have never felt a smoother glacial polish, and have never seen it in such large patches. Smooth-smooth-smooth. And, if you look closely, you can see some thin lines, called striations, in this glacial polish. Striations result when rocks in the base of the glacial ice scrape against the underlying bedrock as the glacier flows over. Striations are handy because they indicate the direction of most recent ice motion in a region. Photo: me.]

Finally, on the way down, we saw the musk ox.

[Musk ox. Photo: me.]

We made it down in time to hear that the trip to Summit was likely to be called off, and then that the trip was going to be attempted an hour early. Everyone back to their rooms, stuff packed and downstairs ready to go. Around 4, Sparky came over to tell us the 4 thing wasn’t happening. He’d let us know the final word at 5:15. So I went over with Jeff, Billy, Meg, Alberto, and others to a lounge to watch “Joe Dirt.” Some people think it’s really funny. …

Sparky came in around 5:15 to let us know the evening mission was off. We were all given dinner tickets for the infamous Polar Bear Inn, and told that we would try to head out in the morning. Sparky and Tom wanted to meet with Bjorn and me to discuss the fate of our survey. We were potentially left with less than one of the three or so days we had planned to stay at Summit. Could the work get done? If not, what were the options? Sparky and Tom both mentioned the possibility of one of us either staying on until the next flight period or coming back the next flight period. Ah, yeah. But Bjorn, the ever practical one, said let’s just wait and see how it goes.

After dinner, a few of us took a little tour of the area. We borrowed a truck from VECO and cruised down to the harbor along the longest paved road in Greenland (20 miles??), then up and around the hills to the site of a since-removed radio repeater from the Cold War, which repeated communications between the US and Europe.

[At the harbor: Alberto, Geoff, Bjorn. Photo: me.]

[Nothing to see here but a pretty lake. Photo: me.]

[Nothing to see here but Alberto holding a caribou leg. Photo: me.]

[From inside the old power facility. Photo: me.]

[Photo: me.]

[Lakes and lakes and lakes (if you look close, you can see three). Photo: me.]

No late night for me that night. We hung out for a while in a dorm lounge, and then I headed to bed in anticipation of a long day to come.

Posted by beth at July 17, 2003 12:15 PM


wow! some experiences! i spent the past 3 hours reading your stuff. you're a hell of a woman Beth. good on you!
I spent some time last year climbing volcanoes in NZ, Phillipines and Vanuatu but reading your stories, my experiences look so worthless...
If you ever get to Israel i'll be more than happy to show you around (we have some nice dormant volcanoes in the Golan Hights).
Have the best time ever,
Ofer, Israel

Posted by: Ofer at July 30, 2003 8:03 AM