GrIT Update: Homeward Bound

Team members transfer the fuel bladder sled in this May 1, 2011 shot of the Greenland Inland Traverse. Photo: Pat Smith
Team members transfer the fuel bladder sled in this May 1, 2011 shot of the Greenland Inland Traverse. Photo: Pat Smith

Good travel conditions and a lack of mechanical issues has made for smooth travels for the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) team as it makes its way back to Thule, writes GrIT manager Geoff Phillips in his latest update, excerpted below.

The last few days have been some of the most trouble free the crew has seen on GrIT ’14. The only notable issue was a leaking valve cover gasket caused by excessive heat from the turbo. This is a known design flaw, and Pat and Robin believe they may have finally found the solution. The newest tractor has a heat shield between the turbo and valve cover that appears to fit the older tractor as well. They installed this heat shield, along with another gasket, and it is working as expected. This is a huge relief, as the small amount of oil that was burning on the turbo would occasionally blow into the cab when the wind was blowing unfavorably.

The crew arrived at Fuel Transfer 1 (R1) at the end of Saturday and is now en route to NEEM and one of the SAGE weather stations. They are driving two tractors, towing the Tucker and fuel on sleds and, to reduce fuel consumption (and the possibility of more mechanical trouble), they dropped off one tractor and sled at R1. They will pick these up on the return trip.

As of today, the schedule shows the crew arriving back in Thule on June 2, two days after the “off-ice” date of May 31.

The snow road at the transition and the ice at the ice edge both appear to be in remarkably good condition. There appears to be very little melting or “rotting” since we left in early April. There is no standing water anywhere around the transition or any noticeable water on the drive up there. This gives the crew some confidence that conditions will be acceptable for a June 2 return. The current forecast in Thule calls for a windstorm to roll through early in the week, followed by colder temperatures. It is currently sunny with below freezing temps.

The crew will miss their originally scheduled flight on May 30 and are being rescheduled to return to the States on the June 6 AMC flight.

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.

Monitor GrIT and SAGE progress here. Follow the SAGE science traverse via their blog. For more field notes coverage of GrIT, click here.