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Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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Day 6 - May 11 2006

It was another beautiful sunny morning as we assembled for breakfast. JP informed us he had been advised that we were leaving for Nord just in time because a low pressure system was supposed to move in tomorrow. Our flight left pretty much on schedule about 8:30 am and took two and a half hours. As we approached the station, our flight crew flew low along the northern edge of the Flade Isblink ice dome, our final destination, so we could look for the best way down by skidoo at midseason. We got so low to the ground at one point that an automated altimeter voice alarm activated, warning "Altitude!" The pilot eventually pulled up, but was not in a hurry, because we were never in any real danger. The visibility was almost unlimited and we could see that there were no obstacles ahead of us to hit. JP and Lars got a good look from the flight deck and reported that there were crevasses on one or two of the potential routes but that there appeared to be at least one route to the south that would work.

Aerial view of Station Nord

Station Nord is a military base originally built in 1951 by the U.S. Air Force to support Thule Air Base during the cold war. Located 1000 km closer to the Soviet Union than Thule, Nord has a 10,000 foot ice/dirt runway capable of landing B-52 bombers running low on fuel. It has been manned by a small contingent of the Danish Royal Air Force, and now the Danish Royal Navy, since the Americans departed around 1970 (except for a 5-year period during the late seventies when it was closed). When Greenland was about to gain autonomy from Denmark around 1980, there was some repositioning of the Danish military, and the base reopened as part of Northeast Greenland National Park. Covering nearly one-third of Greenland, this makes NGNP the largest national park in the World.

Arrival at Station Nord

As we deplaned, we were greeted by the five men operating Station Nord and, unexpectedly, a few others. The station staff include Svend W. (base commander), Thomas Ramsdal Pedersen, sidearms (second in command), Klaus, Kim, and Morten. These young men (in their 20s and early 30s) are here for a two-year stint, during which time they get one leave home during their second year. The Danish government offers another incentive to sweeten their months of cold and isolation. Families of the men are allowed the option to come up and visit them for about a week at government expense during the second year. Not only is this a morale booster for the servicemen, but offers family members the chance to see first-hand what goes on up here. So when the men return home and tell their stories, there is already something real with which their families can relate. In fact, we arrived just as the relatives were preparing to board a Danish C-130 for their return home. One of the Station Nord personnel, Morten, also returned with them for a two-week vacation. Four of the men are in their second year and will be returning home in September.

Station Nord


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