Journey to Disko Island

In April 2013, with a group of EU Interact funded researchers, Suzanne McGowan, Emma Pearson and Erika Hogan, I was part of a team that collected sediment cores from three ice covered lakes on Disko Island to reconstruct past climate and carbon cycling over the Holocene (~10,700 years).  Now, with Joseph Bailey, a graduate student also at the University of Nottingham we set out to revisit Disko Island.  This has been made possible by a travel grant from NERC, provided through an application to my university’s doctoral training centre travel award committee.  Our intention is to collect samples of soils and plants from the same lakes, which should help to calibrate the lipid and pigment analyses proposed to be completed on the sediment cores.  Visiting the lakes during the ice-free summer will also make geomorphology and vegetation surveys possible.

The journey to Disko Island, West Greenland is long and complex.  We both set out on Friday from Nottingham accompanied by many heavy bags full of our equipment and camping food!  From Manchester we flew to Copenhagen, had a day of sightseeing and then took an early morning flight to Kangerlussuaq, which is an ex-air base and is now the main transit point for international flights between Denmark and Greenland.  After a couple of hours wait, we flew by a Dash 8 turboprop to Ilulissat where we are now waiting for the twice weekly, summer only ‘Diskoline’ ferry to Qeqertarsuaq.  Today, during our wait for the ferry we have been admiring the beauty of the stunning Ilulissat Ice Fjord, known as Kangia in Greenlandic, which was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004.  The Ilulissat Ice stream (Sermeq Kujalleq), which feeds the fjord, is the most active in West Greenland.  As we traversed the granite and quartz across the undulating, rugged, rocky terrain, we caught glimpses through an awe inspiring fog of ice bergs floating down the fjord bound for the Disko Bay.  Tomorrow we will take a Disko line ferry from the northern at Ilulissat for the four hour crossing to Qeqertarsuaq and Arktisk Station, part of the University of Copenhagen, which will be our base for the next 9 days.

Mark and Joe

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100_4008Photos of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, a UNESCO world heritage site which we visited while waiting for the Diskoline ferry to Disko Island

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