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11 June, 2000

Summer Camp in the Arctic

What is it like to be at summer camp in the Arctic? That's what it feels like to me being on the second largest ice cap in the world. Summer camp. I think I was preparing for this experience all my life by being a Girl Scout for all those years, backpacking, camping, mountain climbing, ski patrolling-all the skills I need for my millennium summer camp in Greenland.

The theme of this camp is science. There are 5 teams of scientists working here this summer. The main focus of research is the atmosphere (tropospheric ozone, turbulence, temperature, humidity, solar reflectivity) or what happens at the air/snow interface-how gasses are trapped in the glacier and how it moves through the snow. Now imagine a beach with a beach house and small tents all around. Now in your mind's eye, add the background of white. No tree, no bushes, no life, nothing but white. As stark as that sounds, it is actually quite beautiful. The sky is picture blue with this wispy clouds and pure white snow. It is albedo .83. Albedo is the ability of an object to reflect light. it is on a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 being freshly fallen snow. We have albedo .83. It is so bright that we must wear glacier glasses to protect our eyes from the reflected snow and of course sun tan lotion at 30 spf. I used 8 (thanks Ken) yesterday and was fried. Now I have raccoon eyes. Big mistake so from now on it's 30.

The most beautiful part of the day is evening around 7:00 pm. The sun is still in the sky but it is getting lower on the horizon so the angle of insolation is such that red light is visible. Everything has a red hue. It is very still because the wind has stopped. The shadows are long and sometimes a low fog forms making the area mystical. It is serenity at its best.

Camp life is fun. We share responsibilities of dishes, getting water from snow melt and keeping the kitchen area clean. We do have a chef, named Sarah, and a great support crew that keeps the camp running so we, scientists, can concentrate on our work. A very relaxing life style I must stay.

Tomorrow starts real science. I can't wait. All of our equipment works now so it's data gathering. Yeah!

Ciao, Cathi

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