Since starting this blog I have worked only in the Antarctic, but after taking several months off to travel I am now heading up to Greenland to work for a few weeks with the U.S. Arctic program!
The Arctic region encompasses the area between 66°33′ and 90° North. The Antarctic, between 66°33′ and 90° South. There are some major differences:
The Antarctic is a continent of itself, neatly isolated by oceans and sitting beautifully over the geographic South Pole. There are no indigenous peoples living in this region and while there are lots of penguins and sea life, no wild polar bears live in the Southern hemisphere.
The Arctic, on the other hand, encompasses parts of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Russia, and numerous islands. The North Pole is beneath the Arctic Ocean so there is no permanent base at the North Pole. There are polar bears here, muskox, caribou, and lots of seals, but no penguins.
Before starting this blog I spent two summers (Apr-Aug) up at Summit Station as the Field Coordinator in 2010 and as one of the Science Techs in 2011. Photos from that last season are here. Summit is located at 72°35’N 38°25’W,in the very heart of the Greenland ice cap. Like the South Pole, it’s flat and white with no animals except a stray bird now and then. Summit sits at 10,500 ft elevation above two miles of ice. It’s much smaller than Pole with a summer population usually under 50 people.
During the Northern hemisphere summer (~Apr-Aug) The New York Air National Guard (ANG) sends the ski equipped LC-130 Hercs up to Greenland. These are the same planes and crews that work in the Antarctic. Deploying to Greenland during the summer season starts in Schenectady, NY, near Albany. This is where the NY ANG is based. From here it’s about a 7 hour flight on an LC-130 to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland with a quick refueling stop in Goose Bay, Canada.
Here is a map of Greenland. Kangerlussuaq is located near the arctic circle, just SE of Sisimiut on the West coast. Summit Station is located in the heart of the ice sheet, near the maximum depth icon.
So after lots of reading about Antarctica, the South Pole, and field camps, the next few posts will be from the other end of the world. The Arctic!