7 August, 2001
Responses to questions from Mrs. Hubbards' fifth grade classroom in Tempe, Arizona.
I am looking forward to connecting with this group on Thursday, August 9th.
Information about Greenland
1. What kinds of animals live on or around Greenland?
Many animals live near the coast. None live here. Summit is 200 miles away from the coast and is all ice and snow. Nothing can survive here. Sometimes a bird or fox comes through here but they don't stay. I have been told that the foxes can walk 100 miles a day in search of food.
2. How hard is the snow?
Not very. its hard enough to walk on but you sink down, like sand. After many years the snow turns to ice, but that level is far down in the snow.
3. What are the storms like?
They can be very cold and blowing, like dust storms, or like a gentle rain.
4. Do you ever get avalanches?
Not here, here the snow is almost flat, like the top of a cupcake's icing. The edges of a glacier are where the snow and ice break open and fall off, in a process called calving. Avalanches happen in areas where their is more vertical relief.
5. How cold is the ice?
It can be very cold, -35 degrees celcius. The ice and snow store the coldest temperatures of the previous winter.
6. How well do you sleep in that kind of cold weather?
I have a very warm sleeping bag that has a hood. I also wear fleece pajamas, a hat, mittens and socks to bed. We have very warm tents, called arctic ovens. I am usually so tired that I fall asleep quickly and stay asleep until the tent gets too warm in the morning due to the brighter sunlight.
7. Which is bigger, Greenland or the United States?
The USA, but most maps distort the scale of the size of things so Greenland looks really big. I am not sure of the square area of Greenland.
Working in the cold and snow:
8. Does the ice sting your fingers when you touch it?
Yes, just like the frost on the inside of a freezer. I usually wear gloves or mittens. I am very careful not to let my fingers get too cold. I don't want to get frostbite. Once you have had frostbite you are more suseptible to having it again. It damages the tissues of your skin.
9. Do you have to wear goggles or something to protect your eyes when you're
Yes, the sun is very bright here, even brighter than in AZ. I wear sunglasses all the time. The sun is bright and there is a lot of UV radiation due to the thinning ozone layer here, so even when it's foggy I wear sunglasses and sunscreen.
10. How hard is it digging in the snow?
It's not too hard for the first few meters then it changes and becomes like ice, at that point it gets very hard. That's why the drill is stuck.
11. How hard is it to build houses there?
Extremely. First you have to have the materials flown in. Then you have to work in the cold with big heavy gloves and boots on. It often is blowing or snowing. Most of the buildings here were built in Canada and then shipped here by plane in pieces then reassembled. But even that isn't easy. The carpenters are all very hardworking and resourceful people.
12. Is the work you do hard?
Not hard physically, but often it is cold or I have to do the same thing for many hours. But I am enjoying the challenge.
Information about the research station:
13. What kind of work do you do in the Big House?
The big house is for communal living. It is our kitchen, dining room and living area. There are books, magazines and a TV with many videos. The only work there is the preparation of meals done by Elisie our cook.
14. What kind of work do you do in the pit?
The snow pit is where we take snow samples. We only work there as long as we have to then we fill it back in with snow.
15. Is it colder down in the pit?
Yes, each meter down it gets a little colder, but it is also out of the wind so it doesn't always feel colder.
16. What are the Swiss Tower and the Science Trench?
These are the places where the science experiments take place. They are kept clean for science. There are two areas; the Swiss have their own site. the Americans share the science trench with many others.
17. What kind of tools do you use in the science trench?
Many types of tools and instruments are set up there. The science trench is under the snow by about 10 meters, so it is out of the wind. It is like a basement, you climb down a set of steps to get into it.
18. What do the intake towers do?
They take in the air from the atmosphere. It then travels in tubes to the instruments to be analyzed. There are many types of air intakes here. They are like vacuum cleaner pumps.
19. How big is the Green House?
The greenhouse is pretty small. There are 2 science labs, a kitchen and a bedroom area. Its like a small apartment. The winter over crew will stay here all winter.
20. How big is Tent City?
Tent city is about 25 tents. Each person has their own tent. It is quite nice in the tents. I have room for my sleeping bag and all my personal things. I keep one corner set aside for my boots, so I don't bring snow into the tent.
21. What are HCHO and H2O2?
HCHO is an abbreviation for formaldehyde. H202 is an abbreviation for Hydrogen peroxide. They are both gases in the atmosphere and the snow that we are looking for. Their presence tells us about the health of the atmosphere. From these gases we can determine how much methane and other greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere and how well the atmosphere can clean itself. Its almost like your immune system.
22. What things have you learned about snow and the atmosphere since you've
I have learned that the atmosphere is very complex and sensitive. I have learned that there are many ways to observe it, even though it is hard to see with our eyes. It is made of layers. Each layer plays a different role. I have learned that the atmosphere and the snow are interlocked systems, not separate like you might think.
Are you having fun:
23. Is it fun on a snow car?
The snowmobile is very fun to drive. Before there were jet skiis there were snowmobiles. We usually use them for work purposes, but every so often we take them out to just go sightseeing.
24. How many snowmobiles do you have there?
I think there are 6 in all. Whenever we go far from camp we always take two in case one breaks down. It would be dangerous to be out away from camp and have to walk back.
25. Is it fun in the snow?
Yes, the snow is very soft and fun to play in. You can fall down and not get hurt! I especially enjoy doing handstands and cartwheels in the snow. We also ski on it. Snow is a beautiful and clean material.
26. Why can't you take a shower?
You can shower, but we are very conservative about water use here at Summit since we have to melt snow to get water. There is plenty of snow, but it takes a while to melt it, and a lot of energy. We produce the energy with the generators, but they take fuel. The fuel has to be flown into here in the big planes called the Hercs. They only come a few times a year. The process of checking to see if there is enough water, adding snow to the melter, waiting and so on, takes a lot of time. In general people here shower once or twice a week.
27. What do you like about science?
Science is wonderful because it is so natural to always wonder "why"? or "how?" about things. I feel like I am always asking and answering questions.
28. What do you like about teaching?
Being with kids. I enjoy being part of their enthusiasm and curiosity. I love seeing them take a challenge and grow from it.
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