I'm Rosemary Willatt, a PhD student at the NCEO Centre for Polar and Modelling at UCL.
I will be on Arctic sea ice with two UCL colleagues Seymour Laxon and Katharine Giles and other international scientists on CryoVEx 2011.
Why? The satellite CryoSat-2 was launched to measure sea ice thickness. To understand the measurements it makes from space we need to go out into the field. We'll look at how variable the snow and ice are, and whether CryoSat-2 can see through snow of different types.
Yesterday we left Alert military base to return to the UK - the journey will take four days and we are currently in Resolute Bay, staying at the Polar Continental Shelf project.
We saw our first sunset in over a week which made me think about coming back to reality from the very intense and exciting time we spent in Alert - only nine days, but it felt longer due to the isolation and hard work we put in during that time.
We're writing up all our data and getting to grips with the quantity and quality of what we have but I think I can say that overall we are very pleased with what we collected.
We've got the trips Resolute-Ottawa and Ottawa-London to go before the busy life of central London student hits again! I'm looking forward to getting home but wondering what it will all feel like after this experience. When we returned from Antarctica that really did feel like an upheaval from what had become normal, and I wonder if this time might be more similar than I had anticipated.
This post will be trying to explain why I'm here, and my PhD topic! If you don't like science, just look at the pictures.
To start off with, here's one of the Arctic wolves from the pack living around the base:
The Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) that we are operating here is a very useful instrument for studying radar penetration on a small scale. Here's Katharine using it and investigating the snow beneath:
The idea behind our data collection is to look at radar penetration on different scales to build up an idea of what CryoSat-2 will see from space.
The area on the ground that a radar surveys is known as its footprint - Katharine gave me a good analogy of a light shining down onto the ground and the wider the beam, or further from the ground, the bigger the footprint. CryoSat-2 has a footprint of around a kilometer, the footprint of the ASIRAS airborne radar altimeter is around 15 m and the footprint of the GPR is around 1 m. The small footprint of the GPR means that we can thoroughly survey the snow and ice in the footprint to relate what the radar sees to what the
snow really looks like.
We took data at the North, South and Fast Ice sites as planned which is great.
I've been trying to use IR photography to look at the snow structure, and here is a happy accident photo of our colleague Stefan Hendricks whose Arctic clothing seems to be very reflective in the infrared:
And finally, my view towards 'home' as we skidoo back from the Fast Ice site - hopefully you can just make out the buildings on the right.
Some of the most important pieces of equipment we'll use are corner reflectors - if you took a cube of metal and cut one of the corners off, it would form a corner reflector. These are very reflective for radars so we can use them as reference points.
We constructed wooden stands for the corner reflectors and took them out into the field on skidoos, to a site on the fast ice off the coast a few kilometers from Alert near a CryoSat track. The temperature was around -30 C and the visibility was not great.
We saw many animal tracks whilst out on the ice including a polar bear and cub!
When the visibility improves we will also go further off the coast in a twin otter aircraft and set up more sites further away from land, this will be useful to have experimental results in ice more typical of the Arctic ocean ice cap.
We’ve arrived in the Arctic! Our journey up here was incredible – we started off in a jet, Ottawa to Iqaluit, the capital of the Nunavut province, where we quikcly took a short stroll outside... before just as quickly returning to the terminal – it was -24 C!
Then we changed to a turboprop and went to Igloolik, a tiny settlement amongst endless miles of snow and ice with a tiny green terminal building.
Out last stop was at Arctic Bay, where it was foggier and very alarmingly some engineers spent some time looking concerned at one of the propellers before letting us go.
I slept in my very lovely room here in Resolute, with this outside.
And finally, I want to wish Hannah and Tommy a very happy wedding day, I'm sorry and really sad I can't be there, I'll be thinking of you. Lots of love to you two!
After several months of planning, we are on our way to the Arctic and need to pack and get going! I’ve been coordinating the UCL component of the fieldwork and have been accumulating equipment, tools, knowledge and paperwork in my office – now is the time to put it all together and depart for Canada!
This is the route map Katharine prepared of our journey to Alert base, where we will stay during the field campaign - it is the northernmost settlement on Earth.
And just before we go, here are photos of me making a last minute addition of a fur ruff to my jacket hood to keep warm air close to the face… and getting everything into my bag!