Written by Chris Polashenski
WWII speak for returning totally out of ammunition. And though our ammunition is sample bottles, gasoline, oil, food, and we’re certainly coming in winchester. As we roll in, remaining in our stores is a frighteningly small amount of gasoline (a bit under 2 gallons, collectively, in the tanks of the machines), two stroke oil (1 gallon), chocolate (5 bars), meat (none), AA batteries (none), generator spare parts (none), snowmachine spark plugs (2), empty sample bottles for black carbon (20), empty sample bottles for ions (none), and dimethyl pthalate jugs (3). Ohh yeah, and clean clothes – none of those either. We probably smell kinda bad – but we can’t tell!
Comparing 6 weeks ago when we arrived at Summit with 650 gallons of gasoline, 20 gallons of 2 stroke oil, 83 pounds of chocolate bars, 150 pounds of sausage and meat, 200 AA batteries, a plethora of repair parts for machines, 600 sample bottles for black carbon, 500 sample bottles for ions, and 18 jugs of Di-methyl phthalate, we’re definitely lightened up seriously. The only things we are returning with great surpluses of are those two things an expedition positively could not run without. Coffee and toilet paper! No coffee, no worky. We won’t get into the toilet paper.
Our non-consumable gear has also reached the point where it’s time to return to base where proper repairs can be made. While I’m proud of our ability to keep almost all of our equipment running throughout this expedition, I can’t say I’m entirely proud of the aesthetic we’ve created in our gear. Almost all of the cords to our instruments have been broken, soldered, rebroken, taped, and glued back together. Our generator leaks oil out the re-used gaskets from our repair. Our stove leaks propane out its side, which periodically ignites into an exciting third burner. Our DGPS has gone on vacation already, as has one of our dataloggers. Mike’s snowmachine has a few “aftermarket” parts, including a side panel made out of spare sled material. Our tent and clothes have a few more patches and poorly placed stitches than when we left, but need more. Boxes are starting to periscope up through some of our sled covers, and our ratchet straps, once a formidable army, are a decimated, frayed, and ragtag lot. Luckily we’ve managed to get just about every sample and measurement we set out to take. Worn gear, consumed supplies, and tired bodies are a small price for such a resounding success!
While we are certainly sad to be leaving the rhythm of long drives across this amazing ce sheet, pit digging, late night sampling, and even later overeating we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s clear that our trip is coming to an end. We’ve all got wonderful ladies to go home to, who’ve been holding down the forts amazingly well. Still, there’s probably some chores we’re a bit behind on. I’m slated to hay on the farm in Vermont and figure the first field will be getting knocked down as I pull in. Mike’s moving out of his house in Fairbanks and headed to Homer, AK to his day job as captain of the research vessel Kittewake, and Nate is off to Colorado to prep lectures for his fall classes.
For the next couple days we’ve got a lot of work to do – work we’re well practiced at. All our samples and science gear needs to be packed up on a pallet and ratcheted down. This is something we’ve done daily – only now we’ll be making the loads on an air force pallet rather than on sled trains. Then we’ll do a VERY thorough pit here at Summit to collect a wide array of inter-comparison samples which we will use to validate and calibrate the lighter sampling techniques we were able to take along on the traverse. Several of the more traditional methods for measuring black carbon will be employed – these require melting 10 liters of snow and filtering them, compared to placing 100cc’s of snow into a bottle and bringing it home. More about this tomorrow. For now, we understand there is a leftover’s fridge in a heated building here at Summit – we may need to investigate.