14 April, 2000

Introduction: Arctic Dreams

Dear Everyone,

I donít know why I should be, but I am always astounded at how life can change in only one day. When I returned from my second austral summer (a total of 7 months ďice timeĒ) at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica; I never dreamed that I would be going to the Arctic nearly one year later! To be honest, having had the opportunity of working in Antarctica twice, I did think about conquering the opposite. The Arctic was on my Dream List (yes, I really do have one), but not so immediate in my plans.

Opportunities donít wait. When the possibility of the Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) Program fieldwork on the trials of the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy icebreaker surfaced, it was the possibility of yet another educational experience to share that I couldnít put out of my mind. I didnít wait long before I acted. Amazingly, it will soon be reality!

Am I out of my comfort zone yet again? Of course. It wonít be easy. I already know that from the 13-hour maiden voyage I joined from Norfolk to Baltimore on March 21. Iím thinking South Pole Station all over again. Iím reminded of the similarities of remote and isolated living conditions from my years in Africa, to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and now the Icebreaker Healy in the Arctic.

Where will I be going? On the morning of April 21, I will begin my first of 5 flights and one ground transport direct to Nuuk, Greenland via Iceland to arrive the night of April 22 weather permitting. I am reminded of the weather dependent flights to Antarctica, so why would I expect the Arctic be different?

I have already learned that shipís schedules are fluid. The tentative plan is for me to join the Healy by small boat from Nuuk, Greenland on the morning of April 25. From Nuuk, the Healy will head north into Baffin Bay in search of suitable ice floes for testing the shipís icebreaking capabilities.

What will I be doing? I am placed with Terry Tuckerís research team from Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), Hanover, NH. For the icebreaking speed and turning radius tests, level ice floes as large as 1 km x 1 km are needed. Before each test, I will join Terryís team to go onto the ice to make detailed ice thickness measurements using an electromagnetic instrument and by drilling holes.

In addition, more properties of the ice will be determined by collecting ice cores. Measurements of temperature, salinity and density of the ice cores will be needed to determine the strength of the ice.

One primary objective is to determine the speeds at which the Healy can break different thicknesses of ice. Other tests will measure the turning radius of the ship over a range of ice thicknesses, and assess its performance when it is necessary to back and ram thick ice.

Will I see wildlife? Yes, yes, yes! The panorama of the beauty of this natural, remote habitat leaves me ecstatic at the digital photographic possibilities to share with you.

Once in the Arctic, my journals will be short, frequent and geared to education. Communication protocols are being established aboard this new vessel, so connectivity may be intermittent with limited email message size.

Most of you went to the bottom of the world with me. Let me take you to the top of the world.

Best regards,

Sandra Kolb

PS: If you followed me at the South Pole Station, I have recently added new entries to my letters of 1998-99 at ../tea_kolbfrontpage.html: Introduction: Dreams + Action = Reality; Letter 12: Expedition Icetrek (Peter Hillary); Letter 13: The Women; Letter 14: The Men; and Conclusion: Reflections One Year Later.

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