We are back in iceberg country and that means every six hours, either Martina or I need to count icebergs, estimate their size, and record the ship's location, sea and air temperatures. Martina did the 11 p.m. count last night so that meant the 5 a.m. count was assigned to yours truly.
Even though I'm a morning person, my first thought at 5 a.m. wasn't, "golly gee, I'm so glad it's time to wake up to count icebergs." My thoughts were more along the lines of not wanting to get out from under the warm duvet, rolling over and going back to sleep for another two two hours.
But get up I did. I figured that if I worked fast, I'd be able to complete the iceberg survey by 5:15, be back in bed by 5:20, and back in dreamland by 5:30. I went up to the bridge with that goal in mind and started in with my work. I grumbled to myself about being outside in freezing temperatures rather than in my bed, like a sane person.
As the survey work continued, I started to open my eyes to take in the view. The sun rose above the mountain tops at 5:20 a.m. and lit up the ice floes, icebergs and glaciers. The idea of going back to bed became less possible and more ridiculous, so I made myself a cup of coffee and spent the next two hours in the bridge, taking in the landscape.
Soon after, Texas (yes, that's his given name) spotted a ringed seal on an ice flow from his perch in the crow's nest. The seal looked up, took a gander around, wiped its eyes a few times with a flipper and then put its head back down on the ice to go back to sleep. Guess it's used to seeing this kind of view in the morning. It wasn't phased at all.
We've had remarkable luck with the weather. All of the crap weather has been confined to transit times while clear blue skies have opened up whenever we've had to fly the helicopter, undertake scientific measurements or document a story. It's been almost uncanny. Martina and I jokingly "ask" Arne for sunshine on the days we need it for our work. So far, every time we "ask," our request is filled, so she and I have started calling him "Captain Sunshine."
Despite the remarkable morning, it got better. Gordon wanted to do a reconnaissance flight of the Kangerdlussuaq Glacier and see how far up the fjord the ship could get to the spot he wanted to undertake measurements. I was able to go along for the ride and I must say, it knocked my socks off. First, the views from 200 to 1000 feet in the air were spectacular. I could go on and on about that. But what really blew me away was a gobsmacked Gordon who ranted on about how the glacier has disappeared, how it's collapsed, how the waypoints he'd chosen for setting up a base camp are now underwater, and how surprised he is in the changes compared with measurements taken two years ago.
We were back at the ship by 8:30am. Definitely the best morning I've had in a while.
It's 11:30 at night. The sun is just dipping below the fjord walls, and Arne doesn't like the drift of things.
We're anchored in a small inlet, and the fjord is chock a block with floating glacier ice. On the chart, I counted seven named glaciers surrounding this fjord, and I imagine they're all dumping ice into it. Everything from big mountainous blocks to tiny ice cube sized bits is in here with us, and all of it's moving.
One big floe in particular is against our bow, pushing us towards the rocky shore. No big deal as long as our anchor holds, but better not to find out if it will. So Arne has the main engines started, and off we head looking for someplace less crowded to spend the night.
Today on the glacier
The science team took their first round of measurements today on Kangerlussuaq glacier, located at the head of the fjord of the same name. This glacier is an exciting one for Gordon and Leigh (University of Main glaciologists) because NASA research in the mid and late nineties found that it was thinning at about 10 meters per year. According to Gordon, the melting of it is visible, and it has a messier look then the previous ones. Lots of crumbly bits. While scouting with the helicopter, Gordon and Hughie also saw a giant melt hole in the glacier, about 12 meters wide, and lots of little melt-water rivers.
This time, the science team is taking extra sets of measurements - deploying their GPS receivers in three staggered rows to get an idea of how the ice in this glacier is flowing. Although visually stunning, Kangerlussuaq glacier is proving the most challenging so far to work on. The team had a hard time today finding places to land and set up their equipment. Nonetheless, Gordon and Leigh want to spend longer here than originally scheduled because something interesting is evidently happening with this one. Gordon even took the unusual step of leaving one of the GPS receivers out on the glacier overnight. A little risky, considering the thing's approximately $30,000 (US) price tag. However, the spot he left it in looked stable enough, and it will give them some data about how the glacier's rate of flow changes over the course of a day.
Time to drag myself away from the scenery passing by, and get some sleep. It could be a long night for the bridge crew though. Sometimes good parking is hard to find.
A little note on the spelling of place names. As best I can, I am going to try and stick with proper Greenlandic spelling for place names from now on, but they won't always match what's in your home atlas. This is possibly down to the simple fact that they don't print a lot of atlases here. Based on the different books and charts we do have on board there are often a few different accepted ways of spelling Greenland place names. Usually though, they will all be pretty close. For example, the most common spelling I've seen for Kangerlussuaq is Kangerdlugsuaq. I've also seen Kangerdlussuaq. Simple, right? Feel free to post a comment if you have a question, or (God forbid) a spelling correction.
By the way, the word, Kangerlussuaq actually means, "big fjord" - a description I certainly can't argue with.