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2017 WindSled Traverse – Green Science

 

The Expedition 

Image 1. Inuit WindSled team from the left – Nacho Garcia, Ramon Larramendi, Ross Edwards, Jens Jacob Simonsen and Hilo Moreno.

This is the first post in a series reporting on the 2017 Greenland Inuit WindSled traverse from a green science perspective. I was the scientist on the traverse from May 15th to July 25th, 2017. What a journey! I rode on a kite hauled 2.3-tonne sled system ~ 1100 km across the Greenland ice sheet. At times it seemed like we were being pulled by a thin rope hanging in the air. The traverse was led by Spanish polar explorer Ramon Larramendi and included polar guide and mountaineer, Hilo Moreno,  extreme environment film maker and photographer Nacho Garcia, marine engineer/captain Jens Jacob Simonsen and myself an Earth scientist / biogeochemist / extreme-environment ultra-trace chemistry expert (image 1).

greenland-2017-map

Image 2. 2017 Greenland WindSled traverse route

Green science goals

The Dark Snow project science goals for the traverse were:
1. The collection of black carbon snow samples to investigate spatial variability and its relationship to snow melt; and
2. To assess the WindSled capacity for future green science.

Ross Edwards - Dark Snow project sample collection.

Ross Edwards – 2017WindSled black carbon snow sample collection.

First Impressions

I came into the project with some scepticism regarding the capacity of the WindSled to get us to where we needed to go and carry frozen samples. Electrical power was also a real concern. In the future, we plan to perform chemical analyses on the sled. Melting snow for chemical analysis will need at least 400 W of power. Would our equipment even survive the traverse? Based on my first-hand experience of storms crossing the Greenland ice sheet, I had some anxiety that this journey could end badly i.e. Ross and WindSled team extinction. Up until my arrival in Kangerlussuaq on May 15th, I had no first-hand experience with the WindSled and only a vague impression of how it worked. Personally taking the ride was the only way to get a grip on the reality of this thing. It seemed too audacious.