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Reports from Ryder Glacier 2019

Start August 5 in Thule
Follow Oden's position online here https://oden.geo.su.se/map

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August 25

A few days ago, to be precise, the 22 of August, I was on land. This was a beautiful, clear day, with clouds somewhere high up in the sky, but with crispy fresh air. We took a helicopter flight from I/B Oden to the base camp of the land team, passing over the mountains, steep rocky faces, fjord covered by chunky sea ice coming from Arctic Ocean, plateaux, valleys, rivers and small lakes. Helicopter seems so small, so was Oden too, like a tiny habitable island in this icy ocean. I was very happy so I was quite, totally taken by the scale of this pure, unexplored land we were heading to: all the unnamed mountains pics, vast open areas, so elegantly called "vidda" in Norwegian, inviting you to walk, discovering new valleys, lakes & springs. This land is so silent, so ancient, so powerful in its raw, unspoiled beauty, that I must have felt I met someone alive, a being. Here you can camp, hike, live, dream, probably ski, kayak and climb. Observe it, treasure it, guard it. The land I met that day was still alive, not like the rest of land we are occupying. That land has lost its voice. We have stolen its soul.

I saw musk oxen, they were herding together in large groups – magnificent beasts. We unintentionally scared them by helicopter and they immediately moved into a circle. I saw fox tracks too. Emelie heard wolves, but we have never seen them around that day. Group of scientists flying inland was large and they attempted to take core from a lake. I went to help biologists to collect local type of a dwarfy bush which provides nutrition for the musk oxen but could also provide some insights regarding climate the past 4000–5000 years. We had to dig the bushes out, fighting against very sandy, stony glacial till, filling this valley. A huge glacier was still nearby, even if it retreated inland, giving up the idea reaching the fjord. Mountains surrounding the valley were low, somewhat eroded and partly powdered by light layer of snow.

Land team was happy to see us and share their stories: since they have to keep a 24 hour bear watch, they observe animals carrying on business as usual and not being too shy to come close. One arctic white hare was brave and big enough to be mistaken for a bear, scaring life out of a bear guard.

Those last days we have left the inner part of the Sherard Osborne Fjord and moved closer to the entrance. Sea ice conditions have changed, now it was almost total ice cover and ice was thick, making Oden to fight for every nautical mile.

People outside a tent, ready to leave for field work in Northern Greenland.
Land team base camp, Christian, Emelie and Fredrik are ready to leave the camp.
Tamara Handl in Northern Greenland.
Me and the landscape around.
people inside a tent, Northern Greenland.
Big "dinner" tent in the base camp.
base camp with red tents.
Base camp with red tents.
Icebreaker Oden braking ice in northern Greenland.
Total sea ice cover and Oden fighting through it.
View of sea and icebergs
Inner part of the fjord, no sea ice but icebergs.

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August 16

We are keeping mapping the sea floor of this beautiful fjord with the multibeam and slowly getting the picture of it! It is amazing to see how the features of the sea bottom getting more and more clear, revealing complicated glacial history. The same time we have been doing coring and we had chance to look at the sediments we have taken. We find glacial clays, sometimes they are stratified sometimes, very loose and not even possible to work with. It is very interesting to see if we can discover separate climatical events "written" in these sediments!

Sediment core. Photo by Tamara Handl
Sediment core.

The land team was taken back to Oden by the helicopter today (for some rest and shower). They have been on the shores of this fjord for a week, working on ecology, biology and archeology. And the coolest thing, they have seen greenlandic wolves! Wolves are totally white, about a size of a Shepard dog; there were puppies as well! Wolves were very curious about people, whom they haven't met before, and even followed them a bit. I must say I was a bit jealous :D! Such a unique encounter with a totally wild nature.

Helicopter flying the land team back to Oden. Photo by Tamara Handl
Helicopter flying the land team back to Oden.

Even if it is always a lot of work - as the multibeam shifts & different stations – it is always so rewarding to just go on the deck and look at the surrounding mountains, icebergs and the sky, constantly changing its colours, preparing now for the long, northern winter.

Greenland fjords. Photo by Tamara Handl
Greenland fjords.
Oden outside Ryder Glacier. Photo by Tamara Handl
Oden outside Ryder Glacier.

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August 13

We are now in the Sherard Osborne fjord and the data acquisition has started! The oceanographic team has been collecting information regarding the salinity, temperature and the density of the sea water in the fjord (CTD). The coring team was taking sea floor sediment cores in order to reconstruct the climatic conditions of the past – Greenlandic fjords are keeping good record of the extension of the Greenland Ice Sheet and its dynamics.

Fjord itself is vast and has two entrances. Mountains surrounding it are high, we can spot waterfalls on their faces, curving their straight lines into the sea. Today sea was calm and covered by light fog, making every iceberg look as mystical creatures. Its not too cold, sometimes it is so pleasant to take a cup of coffee and go to the deck outside, enjoying the fresh breath of the Arctic salty, dry air.

Christian and Julek, working on CTD. Photo by Tamara Handl
Christian and Julek, working on CTD.
Emelie and me helping the coring team. Photo by Tamara Handl
Emelie and me helping the coring team.
Coring team taking the part the piston corer on the deck. Photo by Tamara Handl
Coring team taking the part the piston corer on the deck.
Oden crushing the sea ice. Photo by Tamara Handl
Oden crushing the sea ice.

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August 11

After leaving Thule in the evening of the 5th of August, Oden is finally at the entrance to the Sherard Osborne Fjord, the final destination. Right this moment Oden is drifting very close to the coastline: dark steep mountain face, consisting of folded bedrock, overlooking the fjord, covered by large glaciers sliding down to the sea.The view is magnificent! I hope soon I will be able to send the picture of it.

Arctic is shifting its colours every day, from bright blue sky and sparkling white icebergs to smoky grey clouds and steel-like sea. Sea has been calm during our passage along the west coast of Greenland. Sometimes the evening sky becomes peachy and icebergs remind you of sugar-glazed cakes. This is the only thing reminding us about evening, because the sun is up 24 hours and there is no day/night shifts. The few recent days it has been a lot of work, mapping the uncharted sea floor in this area and coring at the several locations.

The pictures are taken during the passage along the Greenlands West coast during the last few days.

Icebergs west coast of Greenland. Photo by Tamara Handl
West coast of Greenland. Photo by Tamara Handl
The coring operation. Photo by Tamara Handl
The coring operation.
The ice sheet at the coastline in the fjord. Photo by Tamara Handl
The ice sheet at the coastline in the fjord.

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