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8 June, 2000

Geology of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

I arrived in Kangerlussuaq yesterday. It is a very interesting place with no vegetation. It was an American military base until 1992 and all the buildings are military looking. I was picked up at the airport by Bent and Robin, two residents of KISS (Kangerlussuaq International Science Support). The brought me to the KISS building where I will be spending a few days before I leave for the Summit. After a brief orientation to the building, meal plan and basic life in Kangerlussuaq, they let me loose to explore the town (on mountain bike of course). This is the best way to get around town. The entire town is in a valley approximately 1 mile across and two miles long.

The town is located next to a fjord with steep walls made of metamorphic rocks. Upon further inspection, I noted that these rocks were granitic gneiss. Why were they metamorphic? I know that an ice sheet would not form such high metamorphic changes that would cause a gneiss to form. I returned to KISS to inquire about these rocks. I studied the local geology map to discover that these metamorphic rocks were part of the original craton of North America which puts them at approximately 2.8 billion years old!!! I was introduced to Ollie, a geologist from Denmark. He confirmed that these rocks were indeed some of the oldest rocks on Earth. In fact, he noted, that scientists have found evidence of the beginning of life (blue-green algae fossils) in older rocks found a little south of this area. These rocks were formed from the original continents that cooled as the Earth cooled. We have old rocks in Connecticut but not like this. There is evidence of boudinage (sausage like intrusions of quartz) that were deformed when this land mass collided with other continents as they traveled around the ancient Earth. The rock hills have large anticlines and synclines (large wavelike curves) showing how the collisions deformed the underlying bedrock. It is easy to see these waves because the ice sheet has scraped all soil from the hills. Where there is soil, very small shrubs grow. Most of the soil in the area was blown from the wind that swirls up and down the valley. This soil/sediment called losee was transported originally by water from the glacial ice cap east of this area. It was then blown around the valley by the daily winds. It is quite barren because of the low precipitation in the area.

My mountain bike adventure brought me to a glacial lake in the foot hills. It was covered in ice but parts of it were melting. The hills in this area were beginning to turn green. I saw two musk oxen grazing in a field. One snorted at me as I took its picture. How invasive of me taking its picture. I followed the oxen trails up to the top of a ridge which provided a wonderful view of the town but, of course, my new cameras battery was dead so I couldn't take a picture. Today, Im riding the mountain bike to the foot of the closest glacier approximately 11 miles away. Ill bring new batteries for this trip.

Friday, we travel to the Summit. Till then,


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