Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Longest Ride

Wings Over Greenland II is the longest expedition on skis in full autonomy ever - as of today, 03/09/2014, and to the best of our knowledge.

During our circumnavigation of the Greenland icecap we covered a total of 5067 km!

5067 km. The longest ride ever. Wings Over Greenland II, 2014, Michael
Charavin and Cornelius Strohm. Start and end at sea level in Qaleraligd
Fjord, close to Narsaq. Click to enlarge.

Just enough to beat the previous record of 5013 km established by Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour  in their  attempt to circumnavigate East Antarctica with the "Antarctic Ice Expedition" in 2011-12.

5013 km. Antarctic Ice 2011-12, Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour. Points
were taken from the book "Beyond the challenge". Not all intermediate
positions were reported. Start and end: drop-off and pick-up on the icecap
by airplane. Click to enlarge.

Which had exceeded the former longest ski trip of 4804 km by Rune Gjeldnes on his "Join! expedition" in 2005-06.

4804 km. Join! expedition 2005-06, Rune Gjeldnes. Points were taken
from the book "Beyond the poles". Start: Novolazarevskaya Station in
Queen Maud Land, end at sea level in Terra Nova Bay in Victoria Land.
Click to enlarge.

We are excited to see what will come next! There is still a little room for more in Greenland, and a look at the map of Antarctica allows one to dream of distances beyond 7000 km! If someone has the necessary ideas, courage, and legs strong enough to set out and complete Dixies original plan...

Distances, as given by the expeditions. In our case: as calculated by the Garmin Foretrex 301, including start, landfall, camps and arrival.

Books:

"Beyond The Poles" by Rune Gjeldnes
ISBN 978-82-995661-4-8
The book can be ordered from Runes website: Rune Gjeldnes, Adventurer and Lecturer

"Beyond The Challenge" by Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour
ISBN 978-94-6161-052-2
The book is available through amazon.com

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Photo Gallery and Video Trailer

We now have a photo gallery online!

Wings Over Greenland II Gallery

Mika is still in Iceland for work, and with him basically all of the video footage. Until he is back, and the time to edit a full length video, a short trailer made from a few shaky sequences with one of the still- and one of the POV-cameras will have to do...



Friday, August 8, 2014

Temperatures

The inland ice of Greenland is definitely a cold place. And one of the first questions many people ask when talking about our expeditions is on how cold it actually was. Yet the answer is far from obvious. And even though we almost always carry a thermometer, we rarely ever have a look at it. And when we take a measurement, its often because the weather either feels remarkably cool or warm. But what about the average? The lowest temperature at night? The maximum temperature during daytime?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a continuous recording?

Cold chain surveillance


At first sight, there is a huge choice of temperature loggers available on the market. But a closer look immediately rules out most offers by the demands imposed by polar kiting expeditions:

- temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius
- autonomy (memory and battery) of more than 2 months
- shock-proof
- small, lightweight package
- easy connectivity, preferably via USB port
- a data format allowing simple extraction of the data for further treatment and presentation
- resolution better than 1 degree Celsius
- affordable price

To my surprise, there is one industrial application meeting exactly all the above specifications: temperature loggers for cold chain surveillance of frozen food and medicals. After some research on the web, I settled on the 3M TL30 (manufacturers website) and bought two units for a test during Wings Over Greenland II.

We had two 3M TL30 temperature loggers. Originally they are intended for
cold chain surveillance. They are small, lightweight (30 g)have an autonomy
of up to one year and are  not afraid of cold temperatures. We protected them
in plastic bags against  moisture and white (spectacle) pouches from
absorption of sunlight.
In order to avoid malfunction due to condensation or accidental immersion (sea ice, surface melt puddles) the units were sealed in tiny plastic zip-lock bags. Professional outside thermometers have sophisticated ventilated white housings to avoid absorption of direct sunlight. As a first approximation, I packed our loggers in small, white spectacle pouches, that I found at the french  sport store "Decathlon".

How and where to measure?


As with every new device, it takes some time to figure out how to use it, and in this case also to define some routine. And so, the units sadly spent the first part of the trip waiting  inside an electronics bag, that rarely ever left the sled. In the meanwhile we observed, that the pulks and our new yellow/red tent heated up considerably during daytime and got interested in temperatures again. Only then did I decide the units should be outside the pulks during progression, and one outside and one inside the tent at the camps respectively. From camp 16 on, unit 1 was placed outside the tent, and from camp 20 on, unit 2 inside the inner tent pocket close to the entrance. During progression both were attached to a small backpack that I always wore to carry a few fragile things. 


At the camps, logger number 1 left outside, close to the tent entrance. It
was covered with a few centimetres of snow to avoid direct illumination.

At the camps, logger number 2 was stowed away inside one of the tent
pockets in order to get an estimation of the inside temperature. It would
have been better to suspend it somewhere in the middle, to  avoid direct
heating through the tent wall when the sun was on this side of the tent.

During progression both loggers were attached to my backpack. Next time
I would avoid attaching them to a black surface.

These were practical choices and all three locations have their shortcomings:

The backpack is black and tends to heat up, at least when its not exposed to the wind. This becomes particularly apparent in little marked spikes in the outside temperature, just before sensor 1 was put onto the snow during camp. But also during the days there are spikes that are too sharp to be realistic. Its likely that at least the maximum temperatures are exaggerated.

Because of the wind, logger 1 was on the snow, attached to one of the tent pegs and covered with a few centimetres of snow at the camps. The snow surface temperature does not necessarily follow the air temperature.

The inside thermometer was always in the inner pocket close to the entrance. This may significantly exaggerate the reading depending on which side of the tent is exposed to the sun, and it would certainly have been more wise to suspend it somewhere in the middle of the tent. 

But once I realised all of these issues, we had already completed a substantial part of the trip, and I thought it better not to change protocol once more mid-way. 

I thought its worth sharing these experiences anyway.

How cold?


The following image shows the temperature trace of  the "outside" logger 1 for the entire expedition. The black vertical line delimits the first part, where the logger was still inside the pulk, from the time, when it was systematically placed outside next the tent entrance or attached to my backpack. The large relative shift in the data makes the problem directly apparent. 

The first striking observation are the large oscillations due to the diurnal variations of the temperature. The temperatures are strongly correlated with the height of the sun above the horizon. A closer look shows, that the average temperature is globally decreasing during the first half of the trip before rising again in the second half. This correlates well with the latitude, as the start and end of the trip was the southernmost point, and we reached the turning point at latitude 81 N on 19/05. At the same time, the diurnal variations appear to decrease while heading north and to slightly increase again on the way back south. The effect is however barely significant, as the days were still getting longer and cloud cover and the spikes in the data play an important role.

Temperature readings from logger number 1 (outside). Click to enlarge.

To make this a bit more visible, the next graph shows the evolution of the daily average temperatures, along with the minimum and maximum values. (The minima and maxima were determined using a moving average over 1 hour, in order to smooth out spikes.)

Average temperatures (black), along with the minima and maxima. Click to
enlarge.

We have passed two automatic weather stations on the icecap (Nasa-U: news "Sport meets Science" and Humboldt-Gl: news "Humboldt - turn right".). It will be interesting to compare the temperatures for these days, as soon as this years data from the weather stations becomes public (supposedly soon).

Cosy interior


The following graph shows the temperature inside the tent together with the outside temperature for one week starting on saturday 17/05. Its impressive how much the tent (Helsport Svalbard 5 Camp)  with its yellow and red tissue heats up in direct sunlight.

Temperature readings from both loggers for the week from  May 17. 
Click to enlarge.

The image below of our 'analog' freezer thermometer and Mika, taken at the very beginning of the trip shows, that sometimes it can get really hot inside (news "Sauna")!


The end of a polar myth: in direct sunlight, the temperatures inside the tent 
can rise far above zero.

Lessons learned


Temperature loggers for cold chain surveillance are a simple, way to document the conditions during a polar expedition. They are intrinsically robust, have a long battery life and are made for continuous use at low temperatures. It turns out, that getting correct temperature readings is anything but an easy task! It is worth to be carful with the packing and  and to think about the placement of the loggers. I would do it differently next time. Pulks, bags and tents heat up far above outside temperatures. Speaking of cold chain surveillance: it is far from safe to assume that the food is always below freezing temperatures during a polar expedition.

The software required to read the logger is only available for windows, and the battery is not user replaceable.

If you are interested in using this type of logger during an expedition, drop me a line, I would be glad to help and to share experience - properly done, learning from our mistakes, carrying loggers is certainly worth the effort!

Thanks to Florian for helping me out with a windows computer to read the data loggers - I do not own such a thing anymore.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time to say thank you!

We would like to thank all of you, family, close friends, and people unknown to us, who have shown interest in our adventure, followed our blog, and left kind encouraging messages to the expedition. During the two months out on the ice, we enjoyed reading your messages, forwarded by Romain and Laurent, as much as trying to share a little of our daily routine.

Admittedly, being watched and followed by others catalyzed new energy, when we had to surpass ourselves. Completing the same trip entirely incognito and without news from the outside world would have been a totally different challenge, - much closer to what the great explorers have achieved about a century ago ...

If we simply managed to convey our dream and distill some taste of adventure through our daily updates, we may have been able to give a little something back to you. And we may have reached one of our goals, share the experience for what it actually really was: the desire to surpass ourselves, the selfish pleasure to achieve something unique. Thanks to all of you!

We were only the two of us out on the ice. But in the shadow (no relation with the dark side of the force...) a small team of close friends had formed spontaneously around the project to run the office, forward your messages to us, and to provide all kind of necessary and unnecessary information:

- Maestro Laurent Jégu, logisic coordinator and chief webmaster. Laurent is a guide heading a small travel agency in Iceland (www.aventuresenislande.fr). If you would like to visit Iceland, his agency is certainly a good place to start! He also accepted the huge job of translating the french (Mika) and english posts (Cornelius) posts on our two blogs. Bravo and thanks a lot!

- Romain Moissard, secretary of the Association Wings over Greenland, chief postmaster, second webmaster, and coordinator of the communication on Facebook for Mika. A solid pillar to rely on in all circumstances!

- Rémi Charavin, Facebook coordinator for Mika. How many 'likes' thanks to you? A pleasure that you joined the team! And first virtual footprints in Greenland! Maybe a stepping stone to leave real traces on greenlandic soil or snow one day?

- Sylvie Boileau, Mikas girlfriend, and agent 008. In charge to inform us on the progression of the 'competing' team of Dixie and Eric. We simply called them 'the Belgians' - who knows why? Maybe because Canada is a small country ;-)....? Sylvie even got up during the night to check the position of her favorite team!

- Thomas Roth, a really trustworthy friend of Cornelius. The 'map guy' reporting our daily position on various maps, and agent 009 in charge to get intelligence on the position of the spanish team around Ramon, the inventor of the polar ice vessel, an ingenious kite powered sled raft. They would be surprised to find out about all the fantastic facilities and luxury we imagined this vessel would feature. Maybe it will make an appearance in the 7th episode of Star Wars?

- Not to forget Marc De Keyser, our very sympathic meteorologic router. We had contracted him for this expedition through: www.weather4expeditions.com. He really cared! Excellent double agent (joke), as he also routed 'the belgians' (true). He daily provided detailed yet clear weather and aerologic informations, gave precious routing advice and had always an encouraging word or two for us! You did much more than only the contract and the professional duty. Without you, this huge trip really would have become looong. Thanks also to his colleague Fritz who took over from time to time! Thanks for everything!

Team Wings over Greenland, - our achievement is also yours. We really appreciated you being part of this adventure and gratefully acknowledge your participation!

This project was nearly entirely self-funded. As we were at the limit of what we were able to finance ourselves, we created the Association 'Wings over Greenland' to raise some additional funds.
Laurence & Luc, Hervé, Pascal "Golgoth", Jérôme, Francis, Corinne, Bernard & Jacqueline, Cécile & Pedro, Nolwenn & Pauline, Amélie, Mathiouse: sincere thanks for your support and your contribution! Your names are forever attached to this circumnavigation of the Inlandsis!


Many thanks to our three official partners for believing in this project and to have followed the adventure:

- Roger (SNOWSLED Polar ltd, www.snowsled.com), its for the second time, that we partner up for a big kite-ski trip. And it was once more an incredible journey without any problem for the 'ice blue pulks'. You probably don't even imagine, what we had them go through? We feel safe to say, that if they they survived what we made them suffer, they likely can take everything. Excellent job once more with this 'new' bigger 'expedition' version. Thanks for the reliability of your equipment, the excellent preparation of the rafting kit and the double hull system, and your implication in our project.

- Ramon and Ernst from Flysurfer Kiteboarding. Thanks for trusting us. We are fully aware of our very particular and specific use of the Speed 3 19 m2 and Speed 4 10 m2 kites. We know that most of your clients are different from us and look for something else in these kites. But we believe that every kiter is somehow fueled by the spirit of adventure and dreaming of performing his preferred sport in wild and remote locations. Being with us in this endeavour, Flysurfer now owns the 'designers- and manufacturers-record' for the longest kite - ski trip ever realized!

- Oliv et Joh from the french magazine 'Carnets d'Aventures', thanks for all your messages of encouragement. Thanks for following us closely, and for relaying the information on the 'expemag' website (www.expemag.com) and its Facebook page. See you soon back home in the French Alps!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Narsaq

We are still in Narsaq, a nice little village in southern Greenland featuring a natural harbour. The place is surrounded by fjords, islands, penninsulae and mountains. When we left at the end of winter, the landscape was wrapped in snow. What a surprise to find everything in vibrant green, when we came back here after two months on the ice.

When we left at the end of winter, the landscape was wrapped 
in snow.

What a surprise to find everything in vibrant green, 
when we came back here after two months on the ice
The people here do all they can to make our stay really pleasant. We had informed Jacky Simoud (Blue Ice Explorer: info@blueice.gl) about our expected date of arrival. All his boats were out this day, but he made sure there would be somebody who could pick us up. No later than half an hour after we had hauled the last bit of gear down the steep moraine in Qaleraligd Fjord, Karl picked us up with a small open boat. When we arrived at the harbour, Helgi Jonasson, the owner of the Narsaq Farmhouse hostel (helgioutfitter@greennet.gl) was already waiting with a trailor to drive us up to the Narsaq Farmhouse, where we could stay a few days to sort our stuff. He brought his friend Edward, who had been on the Sirius Patrol, to help us unloading and to share some experience.

The next morning, just after the first shower and the first night in a real bed, Paul Cohen, who had already helped us with our preparation in 2008, and once more this time, came to our place to welcome us to Narsaq.

One day later, Eloisa, who is working for Tierras Polares (the company of Ramon Larramendi who is still sailing the inlandsis) gave us a ride to 'town' and we had a little chat. Later, she and her friend Sergio surprised us at coffe time with a delicious home-made apple crumble they had prepared for us! The same evening we enjoyed an excellent dinner with local fish specialties and our first salad in more than two months at Monikas and Pauls place.

Sergio, Eloisa, the delicious homemade apple crumble, and Mika.

We thought it would be practical to have a new crate of different dimension, to send all our equipment in one piece. In less than half a day, a local workshop had accomplished the job...

Thanks to all the people here in Narsaq!

The only thing we do not have yet, is a fast internet connection - we are still using our satellite modems or our cell phones. And, there are moskitos now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finish rock'n'roll !

15/06, camp 50
Distance today : 67 km
Total distance : 5067 km
Position: N61.027 W46.766, alt about 100 m 
Moving time : more than 9H

16/06, Fjord Qaleralik, pick-up location for boat evacuation
Distance today: a few hundred meters...
Total distance: 5067 km
Position: N61.027 W46.762, alt 0 m 
Moving time : 2H30

It was close to 4:30 am when we finally set up camp after a 11h long kite session without a break. For us it was dinner time (soup, and dry meal). We used the time to send Marc our position, so he could get us an updated weather forecast for the next 3 days, according to an estimated progression (now, after one day, and after 2 days).

In the meantime we looked at the previous forecast, received about 15 hours earlier : Marc said then that we should try to finish in the next 36 hours (21 remaining) or else there was a risk of total absence of wind for several days.
Our dilemma : if we decide to rest we'll have to mergin any longer regarding wind conditions. And if this final wind window isn't working as planned (it's such a difficult excercice to predict the wind so precisely, at this exact position, where the landscape itself can generate its own weather system), then we'll be stuck without wind, at only 70 km from the final point of the expedition...

None of us wants to take the chance of getting stuck : instead of getting in our sleeping bags, we wrap up the camp, drink coffee and get going ; we'll sleep later...

At 10 am we set off, in a nice and gentle easterly blow. We need our "big guns" (speed 19m²). We soon realize that the wind 30m higher is a lot stronger than the surface wind ; our speed 19m² are way too big : with them in such winds it would be too difficult to stop quickly (and there are quiet a bunch of crevasses here). We decide to swap our speed 19m² for the speed 10m².
Unfortunately the slope gets less steep (almost flat) over the 20 next kilometers, and we get trapped a couple of times. We have to be patient, and manage to progress slowly, until the slopes get better again. At km 35 we stop to observe a serie of little "waves" in the snow, clear indicators of snow bridged crevasses. The snow bridges seem strong enough. We therefore decide, instead of zigzaging between them, to force our way through them, full speed. It's anyway probably more risky to try to go slowy between than to power throught them.

A bit further down we can see beautiful turquoise blue lakes formed on the surface of the snow ; we have no intention to go bathing in them and manage to navigate around them. We have now come to a point on the glacier where the snow is melting very fast. This is a critical zone : the snow is more of a slush, our skies leave heavy traces behind, it's difficult to slide on the snow (the pulks make us have hard time dragging them) ; we really have to use the full power of traction of the kites to get everthing going forward. But things would be so much more difficult without kites, if we had to drag things on our own, or even if we needed to set camp here.
The further we go the more confindent we get on power through all of this. We shall not stop, or then would start to be difficult even to get out of this on our own.

Further down we get to some hard ice areas. It gets easier to slide, but one thing reauires all of our attention : the snow cover is more and more missing, and crevasses are now quiet open. And again, zigzaging through those hauling ourselves the pulks would be such a difficult mission, and the risk of falling through snow bridges into crevasses wouldn't be lower. We decide to power through the area.
As much as possible, when we know of a clear and safe grey snow patch we ski along it, but there's no more choice, we need to face the crevasse, looping our kites to gain speed, and ski over the bridge making sure our skies or pulks won't get caught in the crevasse.

Later on we are litterally ski surfing : melt water is running on the white-grey bare ice. We crossing dirty grey landscapes, and ski around a few turquoise blue little ponds which beautfully contrast with the low tone colours that we've seen over the past 2 months. The only risk here is to fall flat in one of those pond... and get really wet !

We make our way through a maze of bare ice and slush.

A bit further the wind drops ; we decide to tak our kites down, about 8 km away from the fjord. We're now hauling the pulks by feet or skis, on a light grey bare wavy ice. It's sometimes very hard work, when the pulks are getting stuck on some bump in the ice, but sometimes we kind of have to run in front of it when it starts sliding down the slope, if we don't want it to run over us...

2 kilometers before our target ending point we walk passed the place where we set up the first camp, 2 months ago. There we have a small depression in the glacier, where the ice tongue comes to and end by an medial moraine. This one being snow free, we have no other option now than to carry our stuff : 8 forth-and-backs, one and a half hour work.
Another slope down, a bit steep on the right hand side of the outlet glacier takes us to the only place we can get out of it, cause everwhere else the glacier ends up as a frontal cliff line over the land.
It's now about 7:30 pm, we've been moving for close to 9 hours without a break, and near 20h over the last 26 !
Last camp and last dispatch from the expedition above Qaleraligd Fjord.


Even though we're only at 100m elevation, we have to will to keep going, carrying all of our things any longer towards the Qaleralik fjord for today. We decide to get some rest ; there's no place to pitch the tent, so we decide to "bivouac" there, on the rocky ground of the moraine. If a couple of small rain showers woke us up during the night, it didn't really disturb much our sleep...

The last meters on dirty ice. The remaining meters we went back and forth,
carrying our stuff.


In the morning of the 16th of june, we went up and down forth and back to get all of our things down to boat pick-up location. At 11 am everything is ready on our end to be transported away, at the place where we cam 58 days earlier to start this expedition. The sky gets darker again and it's already raining a bit when we can see the 90 horse power rib-boat coming to pick us up. We sail accross the fjords util we reach the small village of Narsaq ; Wings Over Greenland II comes to a sucessful end...

We'll keep you posted with our latest news in the next days !