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Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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Day 5 - May 10 2006

We had today to ourselves before the flight to Nord scheduled for tomorrow. We decided to use the spare time to see if we could borrow a vehicle to go off base and tour the nearby highlights. The process was relatively straightforward, and Andreas and I obtained permission from Sergeant Mike Montana at Base Headquarters. With his authority, we proceeded to the vehicle maintenance motor pool (building 580) and after receiving instructions from Lemmy, a Danish mechanic, on speed limits, maintaining radio contact, driving with headlights on and wearing seatbelts at all times, and on checking out and in with the communications center, soon we were underway in a large Ford van with plenty of room for all 11 of us.

Nike Antimissile Battery launch site at D Launch

First we went to the D Launch site several miles away and overlooking Thule Air Base. D Launch is one of 4 abandoned Nike antiaircraft missile batteries near Thule. We climbed down stairs and ladders from ground level into the windowless facility. The ceilings were low as the rooms were 1/3 filled with water, now turned to ice; very slippery, dark and cold. After lunch at a nearby picnic table, we drove back through Thule AB and crossed over a ridge on the opposite side to the former settlement of Thule that was abandoned in the 1950s when the Air Force moved in and the native Inuit were required to relocate. The original Inuit dwellings, numbering less than a dozen, were nothing more than single room huts half dug into the ground and now lay in ruins. These were vacated in the 1940s when the Inuit moved into modest brightly painted cottages nearby. They are empty now, but still largely intact.

Ruins of Inuit dwelling at site of the original settlement of Thule

Finally we drove up another ridge to see the still operational BMEWS (Ballistic Missle Early Warning System) radar site. From there, we also had a great view across the valley of three glaciers that merge, the only place in Greenland where this occurs. At dinner we learned that our flight was scheduled for 8 am and that we were to report to the airfield by 7. We agreed to meet for breakfast at 6.

Confluence of three glaciers near Thule.


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