Greenland ICE:  Investigating the Climate with Eolus

In the 2011-12 Antarctic season both Dixie Dansercoer, and Eric McNair-Landry completed two bold expeditions. Dixie, with Sam Deltour, did a circular route, covering 5013 km in 74 days. Eric, with Sebastian Copeland, did a traverse, Novo Base – South Pole of Inaccessibility – Geographic South Pole – Hercules Inlet, 3620 km in 81 days (in a straight line between landmarks).

Dixie sent over news from Belgium to ExplorersWeb that he and Eric, from Canada, has teamed up to do a circumnavigation of Greenland this Spring season; 5000+ km in 80 days. ExWeb asked Dixie about their plan, how it compares with what they did on Antarctica, and more.

ExplorersWeb: How did it come that you and Eric teamed up?

Dixie: We met in Cape Town in 2011 before our Antarctic ICE expedition – opening new doors with a circular route following the katabatic winds in anti-clockwise motion together with Sam Deltour. Eric was on his way to Antarctica as well, to guide Sebastian Copeland on their traverse.

Eric had a very special aura and fun attitude, something that always gets me to ‘file’ encounters like these as very agreeable and ‘to be followed up’. Of course, we had a great passion in common for ski-kiting in combination with the great white outdoors and long haul expeditions with many years of combined experience.

Sam actually had found a soulmate in Eric and they had been talking about this Greenland expedition, but Sam – wise as he is with his great intellect – had decided to continue his medical studies with 5 more years of psychiatry and thus unable to spend another 3 months kiting in Greenland. So, Eric and I exchanged ideas on this trip and soon enough decided to go for it.

One of the assets I strongly believe in, is the complicity of generations, an example to be put out there whereby young and old – I can’t hide my 52 years anymore… – can truly be a unique approach to get the best out of old rat’s experience and young gun’s power. [Ed note: Eric will turn 30 in May.]

Where do you plan to start?

We will be dropped off by helicopter onto the ice cap, somewhere West off of Ammasalik and end at the same spot: Green-speed Ridge (N 65°46.736 W 38°32.869) from where we go south, round the southern point, go up North along the West coast, turn Eastward at the height of Thule towards the East coast and then cruise down again to our departure point. That is theory, and it is up to us to prove it possible now.

It is always a bit of a gamble when you pioneer new routes, but I have always believed that pioneering is not only from long forgotten times, but there are still a number of things to do on this planet that can be considered as pioneering. Soon enough, all you can do anymore is do an established route faster than the people before you and polar travel is not a competitive sport anyways as conditions always differ.

How long do you estimate this will take?

We estimate that we should be back to sign off after 80 days. I want to be back for my wife’s 50th birthday anyways and that is mid June!

Distance? Route more or less? Specific places/landmarks?

5000+ km and the route is the greatest possible circle that we can draw like an amoeba sitting on the Inlandsis, taking into account how the winds flow. Eric wanted to go play around and descend the Ice Cap all the way up North to go find the Arctic Ocean, which was a great little excursion to break up the trip halfway, but I could not find an insurance that would cover us while Global Rescue covers to 80°N but not beyond. We’ll do other little detours to see if anyone is around to party at the DYE 2 or 3 Stations!

What are the challenges on this route?

The katabatic winds on the east coast are not as reliable as on the west coast, and especially the direction is rather erratic in certain places. So, it will be ‘part two’ that will be the most challenging.

Are there areas that you had to get special permission for? For example in the northeast? Aren’t there areas that only the special patrol guys are allowed?

I have established a good contact with the Government of Greenland and what they clearly need to know is that you have a good number of years of experience. Also that your organization, preparation and logistics are sound. There is no place for bad planning, inadequate funding, shady insurance coverage.

I have always taken great care and pride in being autonomous, repair whatever equipment needs it ‘now’ and not pull the PLB when you get homesick. The people who give out the permits quickly know who is in front of them.

What type of kites are you going to use?

Ozone is our trusted kite partner and they will be sending us off with their newest line and on top of that, a little surprise 🙂

What are the challenges on this route?

The katabatic winds on the east coast are not as reliable as on the west coast, and especially the direction is rather erratic in certain places. So, it will be ‘part two’ that will be the most challenging.

Why specifically clock wise and Antarctica anti-clockwise?

It is the most logic way to follow the katabatic winds that – under the influence of the Coriolis effect (rotation of the Earth) – veer to either left or right, depending if you are in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere.

What have you learned on Antarctica that you will apply here?

Before the Antarctic ICE expedition we knew that we had to find a way to embrace the very light winds and thus developed the huge 30 and 50 m Nasawing kites on long lines and in Greenland it will be pretty much the same. We managed to have a daily average of 69 km over the 74 days.

In Antarctica – it being a much larger ice-cap compared to Greenland – we had to deal with seriously challenging surface conditions with sometimes huge and endless sastrugi-fields and ice that can be rock-hard, so I trust that we can do even better in Greenland where there might be other challenges like the softer snow or when we’ll be courting the edges of the Ice Cap, more crevasses.

How will it be the same/different from Antarctica?

We intend to start as soon as we can and I have asked for a departure at the very beginning of April, which was granted in order to enjoy the best ice conditions. The altitude in Greenland is less of a worry, but the speed at which the weather can change is pretty amazing. The well-known Pitteraq can pop up out of the blue while in Antarctica, you can ‘feel’ the weather a little better.

Last word

I am very much looking forward to completing the scientific data that we collected already during our Antarctic circular route, and now we have a full-on steering committee with whom we have established a protocol to study the katabatic winds at altitude.

(by Correne Coetzer – originally published in www.explorersweb.com)