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Our little Expedition is on the Daily Camera

Cold Latitudes

Science correspondent for the Daily Camera Charlie Brennan nicely captures and frames the approach to our science expedition and the motivations that propel it in Saturday morning’s top story.

As we were talking with Charlie, it hit me how much of a Boulder endeavor this is – from ASD Inc. contributing the spectroradiometer, to Boulder Mountain Repair fabricating our bespoke sled covers, to Epicenter Creative designing the mission patch, to Destination Epic donating our polar tent and managing our nutrition, to local heroes Eric LarsenAndrew Skurka, and Gary Neptune – and the terrific store he founded – sharing their wisdom; and many others giving us inspiration and encouragement. Our little town casts a shadow much bigger than we are.

Preparations continue at a frantic pace. Tomorrow, Dr. Horodyskyj, our Principal Investigator and founder of Science in the Wild, will be finalizing sampling procedures with the spectroradiometer…

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19 days to Baffin

Cold Latitudes

Little by little the Penny Ice Cap Expedition is taking over my mind and my time. Abstractions and generalities about a great adventure turn into a thousand details that matter. The easy details are taken care of, and the tough ones are now front and center, as the clock ticks away towards our scheduled take off: April 10, 1500 UTC.

In parallel, we build our support network. Patrick will handle emergency operations, were they to be needed. He will also channel social networking for Science in the Wild. Wendy is Master Nutritionist for the expedition; and will handle social networking for Boundless Focus. We are recruiting a weather person, to keep us aware of the meso-scale picture while on the ice cap.

As the date approaches and we figure out all of the equipment details, we are about to shift to mission simulations – on the ice, and in the…

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Eleven days before take off — Cold Latitudes

We are living the knowledge economy. We sit and ponder about narrower and narrower topics, neurons within a superb yet spiralingly complex lattice of sensors, sense-makers, and deciders. With that backdrop, it is a welcome change of pace to work with my hands, modifying sleds, building cooking tables, labeling equipment bags, folding a large and […]

via Eleven days before take off — Cold Latitudes

Exiting the Glacier System

Cold Latitudes

It is time to return to civilization. To come down the ice, we choose a vast glacier that calves into the fjords – the Kaarale Gletcher. As the glacier twists and turns, it hides ice falls and crevasse fields. We intuit the best path down by eyeing the fall lines and identifying the smoothest and most continuous ones. The approach succeeds – although in truth we will never know whether we found the best path. In a matter of hours we are at the snow line. Ahead of us lies a lunar landscape of sooted ice fins. It is so outrageous and unnatural I think I am looking at an algorithm-generated landscape in a video game. Only pure mathematics could come up with something like this. It is tempting to stop looking for a path in this maze and to just take any line. Matt, however, seems to have a plan and…

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Greenland and Childhood Dreams

Cold Latitudes

For several nightless days we traversed eastern Greenland’s glaciers. Wherever we turned, just about every peak had its own glacier dropping and merging into the large ice sheets that were supporting us. During one magic moment, I had a strange sense of déjà vu – I was in one of the expansive scenes Hergé beautifully drew for Tintin in Tibet, and which I had seen when I was a little kid. How much of our life’s design takes on childhood moments as strong influences? Do you remember moments of wonder that made you dream? What happened to those dreams? In Greenland, I was fulfilling childhood dreams. To use modern language, I was becoming complete.
The most fundamental inspiration in my life has actually always been the Moon landings. Everything I have ever done has been project-based and mission oriented because that’s how I conceive of a life well lived…

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High Tundra Beach

Cold Latitudes

Our circadian cycles declare it is time to wake up: Day 2 of our glacier trek is here. The Sun has been flying around the horizon like a butterfly while we were asleep, sometimes hiding behind a tall peak here and there. We carefully disarm the blank and thankfully unfired cartridges on the bear fence, eat breakfast, and quickly lift camp.

We continue down our glacial, U-shaped valley and get closer and closer to where the terminal moraine used to be – now marked by a lake, dammed by a high wall of rocky debris left behind. We climb over the dam and an expansive ocean view greets us.

We stand on the south end of a long sea shore, along one side of a narrow bay. The bay is fenced by tall mountains to the East, across from where we stand. We can see a distant connection to bigger…

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In the Land of Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes, We Are the Zoo Animals

Cold Latitudes

Island hopping is done: Iceland to Kulusuk, Kulusuk to Greenland. After landing on the East side of Tasiilaq Fjord, we are finally climbing up the hills. A few warm, 40-degree days have unleashed a pesky cloud of mosquitoes. They bite! We don our head nets; We now see the world through a pixelated screen.
We cross the terminus of a small glacier and start walking on dry ice. The crevasses are all clear of snow for everyone to see, so we don’t rope. Meltwater channels noisily feed gurgling moulins all around us. It’s the first time I get to use all these words – terminus, meltwater channels, moulins – while actually looking at the things they refer to. Years of adventure reading turn into tangible reality – at last! A gigantic mouth opens at the top of the glacier. Dark caves give hints of rocks and dusty ice. Water sounds can be…

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We are all discoverers

Cold Latitudes

We have all made unexpected associations in our heads. Chocolate and peanut butter. Glamour and camping. We have all tried our hand at doing something new. Painted a room an unusual color. Trying a different sport. Discovery is an activity that we are both structured to do and which opens the door to create new life structures – a way to rebuild the airplane in flight, as it were.

Unlike computers thus far, we can reprogram ourselves and pursue new goals with new combinations of skills and tools. With an increasing longevity, we have the opportunity to enjoy discovery and its fruits a lot more than our forebears.

Chocolate and peanut butter may seem like a small thought – until you look at the popularity of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Running off the pavement onto a trail was a small change at the time – until I found myself running 135 miles…

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Iron, Harpoon Tips, and Peary

Cold Latitudes

For me, Earth’s Poles stand at the edge of space. The atmosphere and the magnetosphere are thinnest there, opening the door to solar winds and awesome northern lights shows. Greenland and its neighborhood are a bridge between the Solar System and ourselves.

Greenland had its own iron age – but unlike a “normal” iron age where you mine iron ore and extract the iron, Greenland’s iron was served ready to use via several huge meteorites from outer space. The Inuit learned to flake the large, alien stones, and to shape small iron tools and hunting implements, well before the Norse brought their “normal” iron along. You could say this is a clear example of an extraterrestrial influence in human development!

Three fragments from a particularly large meteorite, which landed in the Cape York area (a spot at the other end of where I will be in Greenland with respect to the center of…

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Gateway to Greenland

Cold Latitudes

Reykjavik Airport – Reykjavíkurflugvöllur – is what I call a real airport. City and forest surround the field. You can see all the taxiways and runways. Many small airplanes joyfully flitter around like hummingbirds. The terminals are functional – gateways to adventure rather than shopping emporia.

As for me, it’s hurry up and wait. There are 50km between Keflavik International and the Reykjavyk Airport, and I focus entirely on completing the transfer as fast as possible. “Success”: now I get to wait six hours for my flight to Greenland! Cost of taking an earlier flight: 300 euros. Rental car availability: no. Looks like I get to play Tom Hanks in The Terminal…

And there are no power sockets anywhere to be seen. This power-hungry American wallows in distress at the complete absence of power sockets. I sip off my mobile computers watching battery levels the way a video gamer watches…

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