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).


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.

Dark Snow Project to sample snow across Greenland using wind & solar energy

In partnership with Adventure-preneur Ramon Larramendi and trace chemist Ross Edwards, the Dark Snow Project is to sample snow across Greenland May 21 – 22 June, 2017.

The key innovation is using wind & solar energy.

We are crowdfunding this activity.We don’t have all our costs covered. But the work is too cool to not do and we’re confident people like you can help us make it happen (click here).

A 3 minute video…

Dark Snow is a crowd funded activity

Below is a key result we obtained with our crowd funded activity, showing elevated black carbon concentrations sufficient to bring earlier melt onset.


Those results were presented at an invited AGU conference presentation and are being incorporated into a book in preparation.

Please help us continue the project with your US tax deductible pledge!

Dark Snow Touches Down in Greenland for 2015 Season

Peter Sinclair is sitting in the cafe at the airstrip in Kangerlussuaq, the main port of entry for most folks coming in to Greenland. I believe this is the only place with daily, year round service from Europe – a single “Mothership” Airbus 330, making the run daily from Copenhagen.  There’s a lot of patchy snow in the vicinity – forgot May is still pretty cold here, having come from blossom time in Scandanavia.

immediately ran into microbiologist Marek Stibal, who is already here camping not far away, taking sediment samples to flesh out the picture of biological activity on the ice.

In about 90 minutes I’ll take another hop to Ilulissat, site of a major Arctic conference next week, where I hope to catch up with a number of very active scientists.  Jason Box is an organizer of the event, and we’ll join up in a few days.

My task this summer is to get as many interviews as possible, as well as shoot a lot of additional footage – and to that end, I’ll be staying in some visually stunning places – Ilulissat for one, and in a week, a place called Uummannaq.

More on this later, once I get settled in Ilulissat.


2015 Dark Snow Science Expedition Takes Shape

Our cause to inform the global public what’s happening in the remote but important Arctic leads us to our third Greenland science expedition taking shape.

Building on our past experience, our work this summer is to continue flying UAV missions over Greenland ice, across an elevation profile to track the darkness of the bare ice area expanding as snowline climbs the ice sheet. Our UAV range this year is 4 times what it was last year, 200 km+! We’re flying higher end instruments over the ice dark ice fields, sheet’s blue lakes, river networks, moulins and crevasses, producing unprecedented visual and science material.

We’ve got two scientific papers in late stages of progress, finding that melt is amplified by not only fire activity but surface ice algae. Another surprising twist is to be released in a study nearing submission for publication in a top journal.

In a strong affirmation of the support from nearly 800 pledges, that has made possible Greenland expeditions in 2013 and 2014, we’ve secured funding for much of this year’s activity from a well known foundation who’s identity will may share soon.

What remains on our wish list for 2015…

  1. support for a Dark Snow videographer Peter Sinclair’s travel to an important Greenland climate science meeting 2-5 June and continue north to Uummannaq Polar Institute for interviews with Greenlanders, $3k
  2. science tent to house our scientists at work, $1.8k
  3. each UAV flight is to have two video cameras on it recording 30 frames per sec to document the surface changes through time in better than HD resolution, $1.4k.
  4. after running our camp for 1 month on land, next to ice, 10 June – 7 July, it is advantageous to reposition the camp onto ice, following snowline inland on the ice sheet, to reoccupy at the same location as last year. For this we’re looking for another $12k for helicopter charter.

Your support has brought awareness of our science that was amplified by major network TV (HBO Vice, HBO Bill Maher, NBC Ann Curry, The Weather Channel, BBC, and more), print media (Rolling Stone) and online media (NASA, Outside, The Guardian, Slate, more than 50 news pieces).

Here’s our link to US tax deductible support using any normal credit/debit card hosted by PalPal.

Return supporters, on request, will receive a high quality decals. On request, pledges above $2.5 k will receive Greenlandic designed sun glasses.

Have an ice day!

the Dark Snow team