GrIT Update: Progress despite storm, pontoon issues

This image, taken in June 2008 in Greenland, illustrates the severity of some Arctic storms. The GrIT storm recently encountered one white-out day that temporarily hampered forward progress. Photo: Pat Smith

The GrIT operations team has passed waypoint Benson 2-70 and is continuing to make progress. They’re dealing with some movement of the ARCS pontoons and are working on several solutions. GrIT Project Manager Geoff Phillips discusses the team's progress in his April 19 report, excerpted below.

This weekend the traverse made it to waypoint Benson 2-70.

The ARCS pontoons have started migrating to the rear of the sleds, although the decks and the sidewalls, which connect the deck and HMW sheets together, have remained in place. The pontoon and pouches are attached to the sidewall pieces, although this connection is not easily accessible with all the snow and ice packed around it.

This is a rendering of the ARCS pontoons and pouch assembly. They are connected to the sidewall pieces along the long edge but not connected directly to the deck or HMW, which are drectly above and below this assembly. Illustration courtesy Geoff Phillips

Following discussion with Jim Lever, Jay Burnside, and the traverse guys, there are multiple solutions on the table to stop this movement and to secure the pouches into position. The pouches themselves should not have a lot of force pushing them in any direction, as they are not directly connected to the sleds or the decks. We suspect they are moving due to the constant movement above and below, combined with the ice cap’s slight gradient.

The optimistic news for the day is the crew will attempt to single haul their loads again. And there have been no mechanical issues to speak of in the last few days.

The crew had one terrible weather day. Winds hit 50 miles per hour, and the visibility was so low they couldn’t see the sleds they were towing. The crew continued working through the storm, but mileage took a slight hit. The crew can operate in white-out conditions using the navigation GPS screens. However, connecting and disconnecting loads, fueling operations, inspections, and, most importantly, operating tractors in close proximity when double hauling, all take an extra level of caution in poor visibility.

The Arctic Research Support and Logistics Program within the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs funds the Greenland Inland Traverse. CH2M HILL Polar Services and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories are working together with the NSF to develop the traverse infrastructure and route to Summit Station. The 2014 spring traverse delivers fuel and cargo to Summit Station, continues efforts to optimize mobility, and provides a research platform for Zoe Courville’s NSF-funded scientific research project.

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