At Summit Station, the End is Near

The end of the fall phase-in to winter darkness, that is.

The team of five that’s been easing the research facility on Greenland’s icy plateau into winter since station closing in mid-August is now beginning to think about leaving. Leaving the nearly 30 experiments they’re monitoring and maintaining for the GeoSummit Observatory, NOAA, the University of Idaho and others; leaving the growing line of summer machinery and equipment tucked into a deepening blanket of snow on the winter storage berm; leaving the inventory and mechanical projects on a long tasking list, and the daily effort to make water and keep the lights on; leaving the growing darkness and cold, the isolation from family, and from other touchstones of their lives back in the world.

But they’re also leaving what has obviously been a jovial three months up at Summit Station, which the U.S. National Science Foundation operates in cooperation with the government of Greenland. Ed mentioned recently that the gang has taken every meal together—a sure sign of harmony up there where all work and no play can make Jack a dull boy. Katrine Gorham remarked today that the time has flown, and the team is now beginning to worry about getting everything done prior to the scheduled 29 October, Twin-Otter-delivered influx of people, freshies and materials for the dark phase of winter.

A recent storm with winds close to 40 knots left a fresh layer of snow around station buildings, triggering another round of Sisyphusian shoveling, but what’s new—don’t visit Summit if you don’t like to shovel snow, we like to say. Katrine was pleased to mention that the team had launched the twice daily radiosonde balloons for the ICECAPS project (Von Walden’s cloud microphysics project) in winds of up to 25 knots. (These helium-filled balloons carry instrument payloads that radio back information on the clouds over Summit, helping to validate data gathered by the ICECAPS instruments on the ground).

--Kip Rithner