The worldwide Augustana College experience

Setting up in Thule, Greenland

I have been at the Thule air base in Greenland for two days now and it is already starting to feel like home. I flew in yesterday morning on a C17 military aircraft. The plane ride was not like your standard commercial flight. The inside looked like what I imagine spaceships to look like and the seats were made out of a mesh material, although I was not sitting in my seat for most of the flight. Because we left the United States at around 1 in the morning and it was a 5 and a half hour plane ride, most of us on the air craft got to sleep on the floor of the plane. Even though I was bundled up in a blanket, a sweater, and had gloves on it was still hard to sleep because of how cold it was.

  Once Bridger and I landed in Thule, we got our paperwork done at the base and moved our luggage into the barracks we will be staying in. Then we got to work right away setting up for the field season. This is Bridger’s 9th year coming to Greenland as a member of the High Arctic Institute team, and he and I are supposed to set up this first week until Kurt Burnham, our leader, gets in. All of the gear we need was kept in a storage facility on base, so Bridger and I spent the day yesterday getting a forklift and moving boxes of gear, unloading the boxes, and transporting the gear back to our office in the Barracks. There is  a lot of hard work and manual labor that needs to be done before we can go out and start catching birds. After a long day at the storage facility, Bridger and I set out on a hike to Dave’s Eyrie, which had an incredible view of the base, the islands we will be visiting later in the season, and all the ice caps. That is where I spotted the first Peregrine Falcon of the season flying above the cliffs we were on.

  Life at Thule air base is a lot like life at Augustana, disregarding the 24 hour day light, ice sheets off in the distance, and military officers walking about. There is a gym, a buffet style dinning hall, a small convenience store where you can buy toiletries and junk food, and the barracks have communal showers and bathrooms just like Augustana dorms. It can get pretty hot and muggy in the barracks too (a lot like good ol’ Westerlin). I’ve also found myself drinking an obscene amount of coffee here to maintain a good work ethic and peppy attitude.

  Today we organized all of our gear in the barracks and set up seed plots at what we call the tank farm to catch smaller birds. We laid seeds out  to get Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, Redpolls, and Northern Wheatears familiar with the seed being there. When they start getting used to the seed being in that area, we will set up traps to catch them. We also went on a hike to what used to be called BMEWS. It is a spot where a female Peregrine Falcon has been nesting reliably for a few years now. This is the time of year where the females have already laid their eggs and are in their nests to incubate the eggs. In order to find out where this falcon’s nest is, Bridger had to yell to startle the female out of the nest. When she flew up, we could see where she had been sitting. We found the nest, which is good because later in the season, Bridger can rappel down to the nest with ropes, replace the real eggs with decoy eggs, and set up a trap to catch the female. It was breathtaking to see the female, and eventually her mate, flying and crying out to each other.

 I have learned a lot so far and it has only been two days. Setting up and getting acquainted with Thule has been exciting and new but I can’t wait to start going out to the islands and catching birds.DSCF0028(View from Dave’s Eyrie hike)

DSCF0031 (Setting up seed plots)

DSCF0036(Peregrine Falcon nest)

DSCF0047 (Arctic Hare)

One Response to “Setting up in Thule, Greenland”

  1. Welcome to the Top of the World Sarah!
    You’re in for a real exciting experience at Thule. I was the commander up there a few years ago and came home with amazing memories. Always enjoyed watching the Peregrine falcons nesting on Dundas. Also had the opportunity to travel with researchers trying to find Canada Geese for bird flu tracking. Looking forward to following your work. Checkout my FB page for lots of Thule pictures.
    Top of the World to You!
    Lee-Volker

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