After months of preparing: The 2022 Arctic field season has started

Published 22-04-2022

The first team of researchers from GEUS has left for Greenland in the field season of 2022. As of every year, this is the culmination on months of preparing with field logistics and safety courses.

GEUS glaciologists have prepared for the field season by going to Iceland to practice glacier safety, amongst other things. (Photo: Paul Smeets, Utrecht Univertity)

The field season of GEUS research in Greenland has officially started as of the middle of April. Here, the first team of GEUS researchers took off travelling to Zackenberg in East Greenland. In the coming months, as the Arctic weather gets milder, several research teams will journey all over the Arctic territory to investigate, take measurements, retrieve data, map, explore and evaluate.

Before all this is possible, most of the researchers going on these trips has spent the past months planning and arranging the logistics of getting to the most remote corners of Greenland, bringing lots of equipment and gear.

Besides that, but just as important, the staff going in the field in Greenland has followed – or are going to shortly – several safety courses preparing them for working in these remote areas with harsh environment.

“For instance, we’ve had almost all our staff on a three-day glacier safety course in Iceland in March and the rest just went on a repetition course in Denmark,” says Signe Bech Andersen, Head of Department of Glaciology and Climate at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), one of the departments with frequent field trips to Greenland. 

Read feature from the glacier courseTraining for worst-case glacier scenarios in Iceland

Lowering the risks

Researchers going on field work directly on the ice sheet need to train how to move around safely in glacial environments, which is what they train in said glacier safety course. This includes locating crevasses and being able to rescue each other from them if need be. Which fortunately is extremely rare, Signe Bech Andersen explains.

Nevertheless, having the safety skills needed for critical situations is key, she adds. Because at the same time as training for rescue, the staff is trained in recognizing, accessing, and lowering the risks at hand so that the probability of needing a rescue is minimized.

Photo: During the glacier safety course, the team practiced choosing the safest path through the rugged terrain of the glacier Sólheimajökull. (Photo: Paul Smeets, Utrecht University)

A range of courses

This is why, it is mandatory for all GEUS researchers going on field trips to Greenland to follow a range of safety courses, which must be renewed every third year as a minimum. Thus, prior to the field season most researchers going in the field in Greenland will have skills in:

  • Arctic first aid
  • Glacier safety (training on a glacier or repetition in Denmark)
  • Basic firefighting (for teams setting up camp)
  • Polar bear safety, including rifle and revolver training (for teams camping in bear territory)

Field work at sea require one or more of these courses (not just in Greenland):

  • Basic maritime safety
  • Basic firefighting
  • ’Gummibådskursus’
  • Helicopter Underwater Escape Training

GEUS researchers go on field work all over the world, but primarily in Denmark and Greenland. All field work excursions are evaluated beforehand as to which level of safety training is needed. Prior to departure, research teams go through the field plan including any inherent risks, planning how to either avoid or lower them.

Signe Bech Andersen
Glaciologi og Klima
Johanne Uhrenholt Kusnitzoff
Presse og Kommunikation
Video: Glacier safety in Iceland