Posted by on May 4, 2015

On April 24th, 2015, Dr. Sarah Das of WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Dr. Luke Trusel of WHOI, and MIT graduate student Matt Osman (Oz), also working with WHOI, began a month-long journey to Greenland, a follow-up trip to build upon a visit taken last April that involved other scientists, including Matt Bingham, a Milton Academy science teacher. Before Dr. Trusel’s and Oz’s departure to Greenland, we were fortunate enough to interview them to better understand the preparations and logistics before and during the trip.

Dr. Trusel, a post-doctoral scholar at WHOI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, shared that his longtime curiosity about how the world works inspired his decision to pursue a career of science. He stated, “Going into science is just another outlet to explore things and understand something the best you can.”

Matt Osman articulated that his interest in science stems from his childhood natural curiosity of the Earth. Having grown up in a small, rural farming community in central Illinois, Osman had always imagined and contemplated the past. He is “inspired (and equal parts humbled) by the interwoven complexities of the Earth’s climate system, as well as impassioned by the increasing relevance that understanding this complexity has in our changing world.”

Dr. Trusel and Oz explained that the main goal of this trip is to collect ice cores about 100 meters long at three sites in west and central Greenland. These cores are a record of how the ice and climate have changed. Two sites will be the same as last year, the Disko Island Ice Cap and Nuussuaq Peninsula Ice Cap, and the a new drill site, the Greenland Ice Sheet “Central” site, will be located between two sites on the Greenland Ice Sheet that the team visited last year.  Compared to the ~10m cores drilled last year, these longer cores will indicate a much longer climate record, potentially extending as far back as 300-400 or more years. They will measure many physical and chemical signals, known as “climate proxies,” within the cores that will ultimately inform the scientists about “local temperature, sea ice extent, marine primary production, and atmospheric circulation” behavior.

Dr. Trusel enthused about going to Greenland for the first time. He commented, “I’m sure it will be an absolutely beautiful place and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve been on 5 Arctic and Antarctic research trips, but this is the first time to Greenland!” Similarly, Oz expressed excitement over the “adventurous aspect of traveling to far off and remote (not to mention beautiful) field sites,” as well as over learning first-hand the “intricacies of conducting self-supported, polar ice core research…[He’ll] have the unique opportunity to play an integral part in each aspect of the mission…Also…[He is] quite excited for a second round of winter.”

On the flip side, when asked about what they were most apprehensive, Dr. Trusel answered that he hopes he has packed all of the right gear. Oz reflected upon his nervousness to control his sweet tooth; “Since being in cold conditions 24/7 is itself an energy-intensive activity, [they] take high calorie foods, including a large [stash] of chocolate.”

To prepare, both scientists have been packing gear since winter. They devoted a week to take inventory, purchase, and pack scientific equipment, field supplies, and food to last a month, all of which, through the New York Air National Guard, they sent to Greenland ahead of time. They also dedicated time to field training, and as Dr. Trusel joked, hanging out in large freezers. “Special gear” was mainly composed of an updated wardrobe to stay warm in -30 to -40˚C temperatures, including big down jackets, waterproof pants, and big gloves and mittens. To further prepare, they trained by climbing Mt. Washington. Dr. Trusel received certification in wilderness first aid and has been working to stay in shape, as the sites will be of high elevation and extreme cold temperatures. He commented that it was a “great opportunity to work together as a team.” Similarly, Oz renewed his NOLS Wilderness First Responder certification, and he explained, “it is requisite that [they] also all be versed in basic mountaineering, glacier travel, and cold-weather expeditionary skills, as [they] will be camping on the glacier for extended periods of time.”

Once there, the team will have rather limited access to basic luxuries, like Wi-Fi. They will have wi-fi at the ends and middle of the trip when based in villages, but there will not be Internet access at the field sites. However, they have a satellite phone available at all times. In regards to connection back home, Dr. Trusel plans to communicate through the satellite phone and to send online updates when granted Internet access. Oz anticipates the use of intermittent email communication. He added, “This blog will be nice.” When asked about being away from responsibilities on the home-front, Dr. Trusel noted that his wife will have more house and dog duties, and Oz remarked that his biggest challenge would be missing and making up a month’s worth of coursework at MIT—(and as he jested, seeing “if [his] aloe desk-plant can last a month unattended).

To conclude, when we asked if they would like to add anything else, Dr. Trusel encouraged that we “study earth science because you get to go to some of the most amazing places!” To complement, nicely along the lines of our thoughts, Matt added, “Stay posted!”