Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer arrives, new hobbies, and overnight sampling (Camp update: 7/7/2011)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The river crossing connecting camp to town has been destroyed and the only way in or out at the moment is by helicopter. As a result, Ben has been unable to update the blog for several weeks and only recently managed to send this and the next several posts out with Catie Butler.]

In the past few weeks, Greenland has been green and the weather has been pretty much perfect in the 60’s (Note: 20 degrees or so for any Brits reading), sunny, a slight breeze, and cool nights. The legendary mosquitoes of the Arctic never materialized and we’ve had only a few days where you might say the bugs were bad. The hills and mountains are covered in willow, cotton grass, and wildflowers, and with a guidebook we’ve learned the names of all of them. If Eric the Red first saw Greenland in the summer, he may well have named this place Greenland in all honesty instead of as a clever ploy to lure more Norse to the cold island.

The camp uniform: mosquito protection
As of tomorrow I’ll have only one month left in camp. Despite the slow changing of the seasons, the summer has flown by. We can’t really divide the weeks up as we might at home, as each day is the same and the weekend is now meaningless. Every day, we have to take the same measurements, eat the same food, and hike to the same sampling sites. Occasionally someone will take a morning or afternoon off, but that seems to be about the extent of taking a break from work in camp. When gas injections are finished up on the ice sheet, river samples are taken every hour for days at a time. The night shift from midnight to 8:00 a.m. is split between two people who each have to wake up every other hour to take a sample.

Louise, Stu, Ben and Catie with our awesome homemade hats.
Two Hoods learns the guitar, while Catie shows off
her finished hat and ludicrously large bobble (later removed
as we decided it was a danger to passing aircraft).
As I can’t do anything like a normal person, I decided to try to gamble away all of my night shifts in a series of high stakes rock-paper-scissors games. After much laughing and trash-talking, I was convinced I would be able to beat the opposition and get a good night’s sleep, and the game actually ended up producing a much better sampling schedule for the overnight shift! The gods of rock-paper-scissors swung the game so that each person ended up taking equal numbers of samples but each got a solid, 3-hour nap at some point during the night. Perfect.

All-told, life in camp has been good. Trail running over the tundra is keeping me mostly sane and we are trying to teach each other new skills to keep busy. I have been trying to give guitar lessons, with mixed results. Catie has finished teaching me how to knit so I now have a completed beanie hat, which made Stu and Louise so jealous they made themselves hats, too. Along with our mosquito nets, wellington boots and bad tan lines, camp fashion is at an all-time high.

I’m reading a book about an American woman in the 90’s who spent seven years living in northern Greenland. In the book she describes how three things happen to those who come to Greenland for the long term: Your animal instincts come out, you go crazy, and you get happy. I think this is probably the best way to sum our life in camp.


  1. Ugh this 80 to 100 degree weather everyday and swimming at the beach is killing me! I wish I was in greenland instead of on the cape!

  2. Yep, same for me, except for the Greenland part! ;D