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On the ice, at last

After years of planning and writing proposals for research grants, months of logistical work, and days of travel from the United States and coastal Greenland, we reached the ice sheet today with a final, thrilling 20-minute ride by helicopter. To disperse weight, we separated our five-member team and nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of gear into three loads. Our flight paths took us south over the 25-mile-long (40-kilometer) Ilulissat Icefjord, a slurry of ice chunks that have broken free, or calved, at the edge of the glacier. We then moved up the ice sheet, past crevassed terrain called seracs to a flat, featureless plain. After another five minutes, the lakes and streams we’ve come to study started to appear. In the distance, the lakes looked like sapphire-blue freckles on a broad white face. Upon touch down, our scenery gazing ended, and we tackled our next task—setting up camp. We are high-tech, well-equipped visitors to this desolate landscape, creating sleeping quarters, a communal kitchen, and research areas using only the materials we’ve brought.

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »

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