Monday, July 18, 2011

Helicopter Ride

Our entire field camp area: the science tents by the river,
our base camp next to the lake, and the waterfall on the far right.
The helicopter was so late that ice camp ran out of food and Dave Chandler and Alex Beaton had to hike off the ice sheet back to base camp. Their hike back went without incident but they had to wait a week before they could catch a ride back up to the ice, this time 40 km in from the margin. Once Dave and Alex were safely deposited back on the ice, the helicopter returned to base camp, where we needed it to fly a large load of equipment from our stash on one side of the river back to camp in a sling-load. The pilot needed passengers to tell him where we had left the gear with the caveat being that we’d have to walk back to camp, as the pilot couldn’t take passengers in addition to our heavy gear. Three of us jumped at the opportunity for a free helicopter ride.

If there is one thing about helicopters in Greenland it is that they are always late but when they come everything needs to happen very fast. Three hours after we expected our lift, the helicopter swooped into camp and all of a sudden, everything was in motion. Without turning off the rotors, the pilot motioned us to come, and so we ducked down and ran to the cockpit. We jumped in and hardly had time to put on our seatbelts before taking off. We were informed the helicopter was, “Almost out of fuel,” and so we should probably hurry up.

Riding in a helicopter was an experience I’d been hoping for since the day I found out I might be able to go to Greenland over a year ago and so I was extremely excited, and I’d called shotgun on the front seat! Even though the ride was only a few minutes long, it was a completely surreal experience.  Take off felt like we just floated up off the ground and sitting in the front seat of a helicopter is the closest I think one can get to feeling like you are flying. With my camera out, I started shooting constantly for the duration of the flight. Once we attached the sling load and the helicopter headed back to camp, Louise, Catie and I hiked back buzzing from the experience.

Leverett Glacier and moraine ridges
After dropping the sling in camp our pilot landed, turned off the helicopter and asked for some duct tape because the helicopter was broken. I’ve heard of beat up bush planes in Alaska that are seemingly about to fall apart but I never thought a helicopter could be fixed by hitting it with a hammer or by duct taping it back together.

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