Consolation Prizes


So sometimes I don’t get what I want. I wanted to go to Summit Station today and begin loading sleds for the traverse. Unfortunately a lot of moving parts needed to come into alignment for that to happen and they never quite did. You see, we needed to have good weather here in Kangerlussuaq, up at Summit, and at a third ‘diversion’ airport within flying distance (either Raven or Thule) in order to be cleared to fly . We also needed a working plane. Mechanical delays in the morning lead on to weather problems in all of the diversion airports, which eventually canceled the flight for the day. 

Since all our gear, except a small daypack apiece, got packed up this morning and loaded onto the plane, we really couldn’t even work on the remaining preparations for the traverse. Suddenly being free after weeks of non-stop preparations was a bit eerie. It took a few minutes of thinking before I remembered what I like to do when I’m not working – go exploring. My consolation prize, therefore, was getting to go for a wonderful evening hike.

This wouldn’t be the first time a good consolation prize came our way. We had originally been scheduled to do our science traveling with the fuel resupply traverse from Thule air force base in northwestern Greenland to Summit. Only Chris was to go. Budget cuts and uncertainty around the sequester forced that resupply to be canceled for the year. We got a call from our program manager at NSF that started out sounding like our science trip was in the dustbin along with it. The possible alternative was for us to go out using snowmobiles from Summit station and camping – a logistically less expensive option. Downsides included cold fingers and toes and the need to lighten our payload. Upsides included freedom to travel at our own pace and deviate from the route when needed as well as the ability (and need for safety) to bring two other people to the field. Needless to say we didn’t hesitate to accept the more adventurous alternative.

My evening walk turned up muskoxen, reindeer, a fox, some beautiful scenery, and a few really neat snow and ice formations created by super dry winds sublimating the ice surface on lakes over the course of the winter. Being that we’re headed onto an ice sheet more or less devoid of wildlife, it was sure nice to get some time in among the critters today.


Bull reindeer feed on the tundra – notice the new antlers pushing out in velvet.


This, I suppose, is about what New England looked like 13,000 years ago.


Sun lights up the willows


Mist over Kangerlussuaq


Zoe and Mike enjoy the new found free time


Muskox ribcage left over from hunting season on the tundra


Mike demonstrates the strength that clinched his hiring onto the expedition


There’s something magical about muskoxen. I have to pinch myself to remember that I’m not in the stone age when watching these creatures. These guys and I sized eachother up for about an hour – after they noticed me the second I peered my nose over a ridge on them.


Since I think muskoxen are neat enough to take a hundred pictures of while frosting a fingertip – perhaps you’ll be willing to check out two photos.


When you have the camera sometimes the only way to get yourself in the pictures is an arms length self portrait


Catabatic winds dropping off the ice sheet are super dry and cause a lot of sublimation in the area – resulting in neat formations on the lake ice



Zoe’s toddler is infatuated with trucks these days – this ones to you little man! (I want one too!

4 thoughts on “Consolation Prizes

  1. Always an Adventure waiting which you took full advantage of. Great pictures and I see that your smile is as strong as ever.

  2. The muskox are so beautiful in their winter coats! I’ve only seen them in their shaggy summer state when they are molting. Thanks for sharing some ice education — the formations on the lake surfaces you mentioned are pretty spectacular. How many hours of light are you getting?

  3. Chris, beautiful pictures. Your consolation prize is something most of us only dream of! I’ll be following your progress and Zoe’s (and team) ….

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