5/7/2016

Today, we first want to give a big shout out to the awesome staff at Icefield Discovery who are helping us to successfully accomplish our research in Kluane National Park & Preserve. Sian is the camp manager (and has been our awesome main point of contact for this work). She is following in her fathers footsteps, running the show.  Lance is the do EVERYTHING, fix EVERYTHING, help ANYWHERE kind of person that every great program needs to be successful, not to mention he guides folks for the program.  Tom is the very happy, funny, and experienced pilot who will get us safely to and from our research site on the Icefield. Ashley and Emily have been cooking up a storm, and cleaning, and numerous other daily camp duties to make sure all the visitors have what they need while staying at the camp.  We are so thankful for their hospitality!

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Standing (L to R): Dan, Emily, Sian, Dorota, Justin, Patrick, Steve, and Dom; Sitting (L to R): Ashley, Bronwyn, Dov (the pup!), Lance, Seth, Karl, and Tom

Last night the camp manager for Icefield Discovery, Sian, told Karl and I that we would be either first or second up for flights this morning as our first attempt to reach the ice core site.  Good news considering our ice core equipment coming from UMaine via a shipment, which was delayed by over a week, arrived yesterday afternoon.  After the exciting news from Sian, our team tore into the ice core equipment to check that all the parts were in order.  Karl and I also prepped the first load of gear to go in with us.  We are limited to about 760 pounds of weight per flight which includes person weights which means that Karl and I had about ahmmmm….  lets say  400 pounds to play with and fit more gear onto the plane besides ourselves.

Our gear list included the following:

  1. Personal packs (with sleeping bags, clothes, pads to put under the bags in our tent, toiletries,)
  2. Tent and tent anchors: A Bibler Bombshelter (nice 3 person single walled mountaineering tent which would provide plenty of room for Karl and I plus our personal gear).
  3. Skis (for both of us)
  4. Food and Camping Equipment:  We went with a couple MSR XGK mountain stoves and an MSR cook kit.  Both are pretty light and packable.  for food, lots of rices, pastas, and other one pot meals that make for easy and quick cooking and an easy cleanup! breakfasts typically include oatmeals, some dried fruit, or cereals with powdered milk. Snacks during the day are pre-cooked sausage or sliced meats, cheese, gorp, candy bars (Caramelos are amazing and snickers bars are the old stand-by!)
  5. Technical gear: two of each of the following, harnesses, belay devices, pickets, ice screws, and ice axes; lots of carabiners, several prussiks, a climbing rope, and a few other fancy trinkets to keep us safe when travelling around on the glacier where huge cracks under the winter snowpack known as crevasses wait to try to swallow us up! (99.9999999999999% of the time the crevasses don’t swallow us whole – don’t worry mom we are being safe!) If you are not familiar with some of the climbing and glacier terminology we use (students following along with us in the classroom perhaps?) look online for photos and examples!
  6. Research Gear:  Karl and I decided to bring as much research gear as we could fit on the first flight.  We included some ice penetrating radar equipment which we use to measure snow and ice thicknesses on the icefield, and some GPS equipment which we use to measure how fast the ice is moving at the site we are studying.  We will explain about the GPR and GPS equipment on another post!

We maxed the plane out at 740 pounds so not bad for a guess weight on our first flight!  We hit the hay close to midnight and were up and running again by 6:30 am.  We loaded the plane up and received our safety briefing with pilot, Tom Bradley.  By 9:30 am we were in the air heading towards our study site.  One MINOR problem:  as we came around the bed in the valley we traveled up with the plane, we ran into a low lying cloud bank that blocked our passage into the mountains we were trying to reach.  We returned to camp with our tails between our legs but with hopes that it would improve through the day.  Weather reports suggested a high pressure system coming this way so we were initially pretty confident we would have another shot at it today.  By 11 am we anti-ed up to try again, only to be thwarted a second time due to clouds hanging over our little section of the ice field.

Flight Path 5_7_2016

Flight path from the GPS for our second flight towards our research site.  Although it was not a success due to clouds, we got some nice views!

As I sit at camp now, we are watching the cover the mountains and fill the access valley so it looks like we will have to wait for another attempt tomorrow.  BUT, we have acquired  have some photos and videos over the last few days so the delay provided a chance to provide a teaser of the season start, below.  Check them out!  Thanks Dan Dixon (for photos) and Justin Leavitt (for video) below!

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  So we are one day delayed?  SO WHAT!  Have I ever told you the story of our team making it all the way to Antarctica, sitting around for about 5-6 weeks, and then returning home, never making it to our study site because of bad weather?

Rule # 1: patience is important in this type of work!

Check out Icefield Discovery facebook link here and their webpage here.  Their parent non-profit organization, Kluane Lake Research Station operated by the University of Calgary can be found here.

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