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All strapped down

Published: at 11:36 PM

What a tremendous pain in the neck it is to move cargo through the system to get to our remote field camp. But it is an important and necessary part of this endeavor. We have all of this sensitive cargo…. Instruments that are delicately tuned, electronics with small wires and connections, lithium batteries that could explode if damaged, drums of fuel, and a bunch of other haz mat. We loaded most of it in a sea-container then on a truck in Boulder where it was driven across the country to New York. Upon arrival there, it was unclear if we needed a crane for the offload or if the National Guard base had the necessary equipment to move an 11500 lb container (turns out they did). Our stuff was then all strapped on large aircraft pallets and flew with us to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. It went through the same delay we did on the way here, with the bonus time in Goose Bay.

A pallet of science  component prepared to be sent to the ice sheet being held by the forks of a tractor

The first of three pallets holding science hardware, notice the frame and skis sticking out from between the webbing.

Over the past few days in Kanger, we’ve taken those pallets apart, added a huge pile of additional camp gear, and considered our general “plan” for when we need to use each piece of the gear once we are dropped off alongside the lonely airstrip at Raven.

The cargo crew here is very good at what they do. Mostly we just needed to stand out of the way, occasionally jumping in to help move something, or to advise on where to put something sensitive or to leave something easily accessible. They are so good at the tetris of putting together the various pieces into a compact unit and then strapping it all down. All of this to accommodate the potentially drastic motions that occur on an aircraft. 3 G forces…. Or something like that.

A pallet in a warehouse with batteries and camp gear

The second pallet containing the hazardous batteries and other camp components.

The biggest hang up has been our lithium batteries. Twenty of them, car battery sized, but each packing much more of a punch than a typical car battery. There are all kinds of regulations on how these must be treated, and packed, and labelled. And the rules can be different for commercial transport versus the air national guard. And there is some room for interpretation, or at least that’s what it seems. It took us quite some time to navigate the details to get it all right…. Most importantly, we had to ensure that it was all done in the way that the hazmat officer for the guard wanted it. Add this warning sticker…. No, now remove that warning sticker. Disconnect terminals and tape them. Classify them this way… and then that way. It went in circles for a while. But in the end, we have a wall of batteries ringing the back side of one of our pallets, each in their properly labeled box, ready for safe transport to the ice, and with the approval of the haz mat officer.

A pallet in a warehouse with gas for stoves and other camp gear

The third and final pallet with the remaining hazardous materials, including gas for camp stoves and other misc. camp necessities.