Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Where the day takes you...

Sometimes in the Arctic, the day evolves in strange ways, and you find yourself at the end of the day exactly where you started.  This morning started early for me when I got up to check and see if we had been able to procure more fuel for the helicopter.  The great news was that some of the fuel at a camp run by Alun and Bryn Hubbard and Poul Christofferson, all of them UK and researchers I've known for many years, was available.  So our plan was to find the fuel cache, have Daniel carry some fuel to our site in the sling (passengers aren't allowed when the helicopter is slinging), come back and collect us, and head out to our site.  The bad news was that the weather near there was not great, so we decided to cancel for the day.  We had a leisurely breakfast, and relaxed while thinking about what we'd be doing with our day.

Then came the call, and Kathy (one of our great support folks) said "Can you be ready in a half an hour?"  The weather had changed and we were on again.  We often "hurry up and wait", but now we were in "wait and hurry up" mode.  We made it to the airport as quickly as we could, and soon took off. 

So, as we were on our way to the fuel cache, we were looking for a bunch of barrels....  And we found them, along with more cargo that was to be flown out the camp (the cache had been landed by boat and was not on the ice).  But in addition to that, we found the aforementioned boat, the S/V Gambo, run by Alun:
Here a small inflatable heads out to Gambo, ready to ferry passengers.  Gambo has traveled a great many of the world's oceans, and is currently in Greenland supporting Alun, Bryn, and Poul's research.  In fact, Alun happened to be there at the cache, and as it was nearly lunchtime, invited us to have lunch with his crew aboard the Gambo.  Of course we accepted!

Thomas in the cockpit of Gambo, as seen from the companionway.  We had a great visit with the crew and Alun regaled us with stories of boats, helicopters, and small UAVs.  It was great.  We had expected to be standing around a pile of fuel drums waiting for our helicopter, but instead we were treated to lunch and conversation!

Seeing a hatch adorned with stickers from many expeditions, we had to add our own:
And then lunch was over, and it was time to go back to shore and await our helicopter.  We loaded up, and headed out towards our site.

As we got further inland, the weather did not look as good as it had before; there were some low clouds and the light was getting "flat", which is the precursor to what is known as a sector whiteout.   This would be very dangerous for trying to land, as it is impossible to see the surface.

So, in the end, we turned around and headed back home, arriving back around 6:30 in the evening.  We hadn't gotten any science done, but we had achieved one of our objectives, slinging our fuel in.

Strange how things go differently than you think they might!  Now we're hoping to fly tomorrow, when better weather is predicted. 

And maybe I should stop crossing my fingers.


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