I feel best connected to the world when I can bring treasures back from the edge – literally or figuratively – treasures that open new possibilities and desired futures. I am therefore agog at New Horizons and how it has literally gone to the edge of the (planetary) solar system to complete the Grand Tour the Voyager probes started so long ago.
I have also been working at the edges of my own physiology and psychology through ultrarunning. Completing a few 50 milers opened the door to completing a few 100 milers, which opened the door to completing a couple of self-supported 100+ miler in the winter, which opens the door to further distance and remoteness: the Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 in February 2016.
What can we build on top of that? There are spots on our planet that are still at the edge of our awareness and familiarity. I can show a normal person like me can thrive out there, and perhaps bring back a fresh perspective of the cold latitudes, which we often mind-box into a white landscape of sameness.
I am about to have my first contact with an arctic environment: the east coast of Greenland. Pirhuk’s Matt Spenceley will be leading my learning and likely wondering why he agreed to take a city kid to the middle of nowhere.
Did you know Greenland can be fairly warm – 60F/15C? I am going late in the summer, when snow bridges have melted and crevasses are visible on the glaciers. It rains with some regularity and it is often cloudy. The piteraqs, fierce storms that are particularly common in the southeast quadrant of Greenland, have mostly abated by now. Unexpected!
I will first fly to Iceland and then hop over to Kulusuk island, not far from where Bluie East 2, a US base during World War II, used to be. Greenland played a major role as a way station to ferry aircraft to the war front and as a vital weather forecasting location.
I will keep in touch via a Delorme InReach SE, which uses the Iridium network and is therefore functional anywhere on the planet with a clear view of the sky. I will share my challenges and my insights as I go along.
Ultimately, I want to provide a platform for science. A typical useful task for “citizen scientists” is to collect snow samples along the way so scientists can beef up their data on snow albedo (ability to reflect solar radiation back instead of absorbing it) and about the speed at which human activities directly and indirectly contribute to snow melting speed changes. For instance, carbon black from forest fires travels in the atmosphere and gets captured by falling snow. Darker snow absorbs more heat from solar radiation, accelerating its melt. This is just one mechanism among many involved in snow albedo changes.