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Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations: Encyclopedia Arctica 7: Meteorology and Oceanography
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

EA-Meteorology

GREENLAND INLAND ICE WEATHER STATIONS

Page
Wegener’s Expedition, 1930-31 2
British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-31 4
U.S. Army Air Forces Ice Cap Detachment, 1943-1944 6
Recapitulation 12

EA-Meteorology
[F. Alton Wade]

GREENLAND INLAND ICE WEATHER STATIONS
It has been recognized for many years that a knowledge of the atmospheric
movements over the Greenland Icecap is necessary before an understandable picture
of north Atlantic and western European weather can be obtained. Also, with
Greenland lying athwart, or very near, many possible great circle air routes,
the importance of accurate weather forecasts for that area has increased greatly.
In spite of the recognized need for data from inland ice stations to supple–
ment that trim coastal stations, only twice have attempts been made to establish
observing-reporting stations on the Greenland Icecap. Two observing, nonreporting
stations were established in the central zone in 1930, but at only one of these
were observations continued over a period of a complete year. An observing–
reporting station was established between the eastern margin and the central sons
in 1944. This station was in operation for less than a month.
Several contributing factors have been responsible for the lack of effort
to accomplish such a worth-while project.
( 1 ) Access to the icecap through the marginal zone is extremely difficult
for the necessary prime movers. ( 2 ) Satisfactory transportational facilities
for large-scale operations to the interior have only recently reached an adequate
state of perfection. (3) Many persons in authoritative positions have [: ] vetoed
proposals to establish such stations because they believe that the station

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland ice W e ather Stations

personnel would be subjected to a too hazardous form of life.
That such objections are now invalid was proved by the most recent attempt
to establish inland ice stations in 1944 by members of the Ice Cap Detachment
of the U.S. Army Air Forces. This undertaking will be described following
a summary of earlier attempts.
Wegener’s Expedition, 1930-31
An exceptionally well planned and well organized German expedition under
the leadership of Alfred Wegener established an icecap station, Eismitte, close
to the geographic center of Greenland, in latitude 70°53′8″ N., longitude 40°42′1″
W., at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet. The purpose of the station was to
study and record the inland weather over a period of a year for correlation with
records obtained simultaneously at stations which were established on the east
and west coasts in approximately the same latitude. No means of communication
between the central and coastal stations was provided.
The station was to have been equipped with a specially constructed, triple–
walled tent about 9′ × 15′ weighing 1,000 pounds. Two or three men were to
have occupied the station during the winter. However, the task of moving the
supplies for Eismitte and the west coast stations from the shore up an outlet
glacier to the edge of the inland ice was much greater than had been anticipated.
Much valuable time that should have been available for the establishing of the
inland stations was used up. Further the mechanized transport which had been
counted upon to move the greater bulk of the equipment and supplies failed during
the fall operations. As a consequence, all the supplies and equipment were
transported on dog sledges. The first party with six loaded sledges arrived at
the chosen location, 250 miles from the West Coast Station, on July 30, 1930.

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

A second party with 10 sledges, 3,370 pounds of cargo, arrived on September 13.
A third party with 3 teams arrived October 31, but had had to abandon all
cargo along the trail and had to be provided with supplies for their return
journey to the west coast. Wegener [: ] and the Greenlander, Rasmus Willumsen,
perished on this return trip. The third member of the party, Dr. Fritz Loewe,
was left at the inland station because he was suffering from severely frostbitten
feet.
Eismitte was manned by Dr. Johannes Georgi alone from August 1 to September 13;
by Georgi and Dr. Ernst Sorge from September 13 to October 31. From that date
until May 9, 1931, Loewe, Sorge, and Georgi occupied the station, and from May 9,
until July 24, Georgi again was alone.
The winter tent was not among the supplies delivered at Eismitte. The
summer tent proved to be inadequate in subzero temperatures and quarters were
moved into rooms excavated in the snow below the surface. (See illustrations)
Short rations and insufficient fuel contributed to the great hardships [: ]
endured by these men. Loewe spent most of the winter on a bed of pain. It
was necessary to amputate the toes on both feet. This was done with improvised
instruments and without benefit of an anesthetic.
Conditions under which the three men lived were the worst. The temperatures
in the living quarters were subfreezing; on the floor −4° F., on the level of
the table 14°, near the ceiling about 21°. The daily consumption of petroleum
for lighting, cooking, and heating was restricted to 2-1/4 pints. On many winter
days the stove was not lighted at all. The men were forced to remain in their
sleeping bags most of the time in order to keep warm.
In spite of the great difficulties, these men kept a very complete record of

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

the weather. Thrice-daily observations of temperature, pressure, wind velocity
and direction, cloud type and coverage, and precipitation were made. In addi–
tion, upper-air conditions were observed whenever possible. These included pilot
balloon observations to determine direction and velocity of upper-air currents
to heights as great as 41,000 feet above the surface, and upper-air temperatures
with apparatus sent aloft on captive balloons to heights up to 2,500 feet.
Never before or since have been recorded weather data at an inland ice
station in Greenland over a period of a complete year. The men on this expedi–
tion proved that it could be done under the most adverse conditions.
British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-31
Led by H. G. Watkins, a British expedition investigated the possibilities of
the least known sections of a proposed air route from England to Canada via the
Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island, and Hudson Bay in 1930-31. These
sections were the east coast of Greenland and the [: ] central inland ice.
A part of the plan included establishing a weather station at the crest of the
inland ice along the proposed route. A station was established on the east coast
40 miles from Angmagssalik and the westward trail led from there up an outlet
glacier to the inland ice. The station was established in latitude 67°03′ N.,
longitude 41°49′ W., about 140 miles inland at an elevation of 8,200 feet. Thus
it was located about 270 miles south of Eismitte which was occupied at the same
time.
The difficulties which hampered the operations of the Germans also were a
bugbear to the British. The climb to the inland ice was treacherous and steep.
Only with the greatest efforts were the sledges hauled the first 15 miles. Once
on the inland ice conditions were better, but the trail parties were plagued with
foul weather.

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

The first dog sledge party, composed of five men and three teams arrived at
the site on the inland ice on August 29. The tent was erected and observations
were begun on that date. The “station house consisted of a cone-shaped tent of
canvas stretched over a wooden frame. It was of double thickness with an air
space between the two layers of canvas. In the roof there was a small ventilating
shaft. There was no entrance through the sides of the tent, but a tunnel was dug
so that the entrance was underground. Since the entrance was below floor-level,
none of the warm air could escape except through the ventilating shaft, and venti–
lation could be altered as desired.”
Between August 29 and October 2, the station was manned by two men, Quintin
Riley and Martin Lindsay. The second sledge party arrived on October 2, at which
time the observers were relieved by E. W. Bingham and N. H. D’Aeth who carried
on until relieved on December 3.
According to the original plan, the personnel at the inland station were
to be changed each month. Nearly continuous blizzards made this plan unworkable.
It took the second relief party 15 days to do the first 15 miles and 39 days to
reach the station. The radio equipment for the inland base had been abandoned
along the way and some of the supplies intended for that station had been con–
sumed by the relief party. As a consequence, three choices were open: to abandon
the station; to leave two men there until March; or one man could stay until May.
The chance of a relief party getting through to the station by the first of
March was remote and too risky. Augustine Courtauld volunteered to remain
alone, and after much argument had his way. His lonely vigil on the central
portion of the icecap began on December 6.
The station had been enlarged by erecting two iglus for storehouses. Thus

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

all supplies were accessible without having to go above the surface. As later
events proved, this was fortunate. Courtauld made the daily weather observations
at regular intervals except when blizzard conditions prevented him doing so. His
greatest difficulty was in keeping his hatchway exit clear. On March 22 he found
that the drift had accumulated so deeply over his hatchway that he no longer could
get out. From then on he was confined to his [: ] subterranean home. Except
for pressures and subsurface temperatures he was unable to observe and record the
weather elements. The strength of the wind was estimated from the magnitude of
the noise in the ventilator pipe. The first party that went to relieve him was
unable to locate the station. He was rescued by a party led by Watkins on
May 5, 1931. On that day the last drop of his fuel was consumed and his supplies
had nearly been exhausted.
The weather data has been extremely useful, particularly so as it can be
correlated with that recorded at Eismitte during the same period. Courtauld proved
that life on the icecap during the winter and alone was not impossible, but
inadvisable.
U.S. Army Air Forces Ice Cap Detachment, 1943-1944
No further attempts to establish inland-ice weather stations were made until
1942. During the first three years after the entry of the United States into
World War II the ice-caped island called Greenland played an important role in
the battle for supremacy in the North Atlantic. Its importance as a site for weather
stations was recognized by both the Allied nations and the Axis countries, and it
was occupied by both sides until the fall of 1944, when the last of the German
installations in northeastern Greenland was wiped out. During the interval when
the fortunes of the Axis were on the upswing, it was necessary that Greenland be

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

well fortified to guard against its being used as a take-off point for squadrons
of planes on bombing missions to the east coast of North America. The role of
the great island was indeed multiple: it was also used as a fueling point on
the northern ferrying route after three fine airports had been constructed, one
at the head of Narsarssuak Fjord, near the south tip of the island, one on the
west coast on Söndre Strömfjord, and the third on the east coast at Ikateq, which
is about 40 miles northeast of Angmagssalik.
The occupying forces of the United States established a network of weather
stations around the southern half of the coast, with supplementary Danish–
operated stations farther to the north on both coasts. The importance of multiple–
purpose interior stations was recognized at an early date, and a unit was organized
in 1942 to investigate possibilities on the icecap and to begin the occupation
of the great white interior.
in order to cary carry out inland operations efficiently, it was first
necessary to locate a highway through the rugged marginal zone over which supplies
could be handily transported by dog team or over-snow mechanized vehicles. An
air survey between Cape Farewell and Angmagssalik in the summer of 1942 revealed
only one route of real promise. This led inland from a small peninsula in approxi–
mate latitude 65° N. Accordingly, a small task force, under the command of
C.A.K. Innes-Taylor, was transported to that locality by ships. A beachhead
station was established on the peninsula on the east shore of a narrow bay, now
named Comanche Bay.
It was found that the only serious obstacle on the trail to the inland ice
was a hill immediately behind the beachhead; its 18° to 20° slopes were too steep
to be climbed by either motor toboggans or the dog teams when pulling loaded sleds.
The rest of the trail through the marginal zone to the edge of the inland ice, 16

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

miles in all, was uphill and crossed by several sets of narrow crevasses, but
presented no great obstacles to travel by dog teams or machines designed for
travel over snow surfaces.
A marginal station was established at the 16-mile point, but was not used
as a weather-reporting station. Too few men, woefully inadequate equipment,
failure of the transportation, and unforeseen circumstances combined to defeat
the unit in its attempt to establish one or more inland stations. In an attempt
to rescue members of a crew of a plane which crashed on the icecap 50 miles from
the marginal station, Max Demorest, who succeeded Innes-Taylor [: ] as commander of
the unit, lost his life. The project was temporarily abandoned in April 1943.
The Ice Cap Detachment was activated in Jane 1943 to continue the work. The
plan called for establishing three icecap stations which were to be located on
the crest in latitudes 63°55′ N., 66°25′ N., and 67°55′ N. Permanent buildings
were to be erected at each site and these weather observing-reporting stations
each were to be manned by four men. For the transportation of equipment and
supplies, the unit was provided with fifteen [: ] T-15-type over-snow vehicles.
Two dog teams and six Elliason motor toboggans were furnished for reconnaissance
purposes. John T. Crowell commanded the Detachment and F. Alton Wade was in
charge of icecap operations.
A new base was established at Comanche Bay in August of 1943 on rook ex–
posures above the crest of the steep first slope. All supplies were winched to
that level, thereby eliminating the most difficult stage in the trail to the
inland ice. An attempt was made to establish the central station in latitude
66°25′ N. during September. It was found that the T-15's were capable of hauling
behind them on sledges loads of up to 3,000 pounds on the inland ice and the

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

project was viewed with optimism, However, mechanical failures in the track sus–
pension on the machines delayed operations and orders were issued by the Green–
land Base Command to suspend operations until spring. It was believed that all
members of the Detachment were required to secure and operate the coastal station
at Comanche Bay. The unit was woefully undermanned for the work that was planned
for it to do. The entire complement was only two officers, eighteen enlisted men,
and a civilian dog driver.
Frequent blizzards with unusually high wind velocities curtailed all winter
and spring operations. Soft, deep snowdrifts prevented the T-15's from travers–
ing the marginal zone until June 1944. During that month, the first convoy of
seven machines with a total pay load of over 10,000 pounds proceeded to a point
53 miles inland, where the loads were cached.
The unit received orders on June 30 to suspend all icecap operations.
These were rescinded in part and the unit was permitted to carry on until August 1.
Wade was determined to prove that it was possible to establihs a permanent-type
weather station with comfortable living quarters on the inland ice, and the work
proceeded with that thought in mind. A second convoy proceeded with loads to
the cache at 53 miles. There a tent weather station, with H. G. Dorsey in
charge, was established and weather reports were radioed to the Comanche base
every six hours. Thus for the first time was established on the cap a weather–
reporting station.
When the third convoy had deposited its cargo at 53, the specially constructed
house was erected [: ] and the members of the weather unit took immediate possession.
The exact location was latitude 65° 36′ N., longitude [: ] 41°15′ W. This was
on July 19. A fourth convoy delivered additional supplies and equipment and a

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

second building was erected and connected to the first by a covered passageway.
(See illustration.)
The main building was one of ten special prefabricated shelters designed
and constructed for use on the inland ice. It was expected that the building would
become completely covered with snow during the first year and that additional
snow would accumulate above it at the rate of about 3 feet per year.
The over-all dimensions of the building were 27′×10′1-1/4″ × 9′3/4″. It
was constructed of 47 panels: 24 exterior wall panels, 3 interior wall [: ] panels,
10 floor panels, and 10 roof panels. It resembled a huge refrigerator. Each wall
panel consisted of a well-braced frame constructed of 2″ × 6″ stock, covered on
both outer and inner sides with 1/4″ plywood. Roof panels were similar but with
framework of 2″ × 8″ stock. Floor panels were similar in construction to the
wall panels, but with 1/2″ plywood on the inner floor surface. Panels were
secured together with 5/8″ bolts. Pockets with removable covers were provided
in each panel for inserting and tightening the bolts. The spaces within the
panels were filled with glass-wool bats for insulation. Joint gaskets were placed
between the panels. They consisted of 3 stitched plies of 15 oz. duck, formed
to length and width required, impregnated and coated with water-proofing compound.
One skylight was provided. It was constructed of multiple sheets of glass
hermetically sealed to form air spaces.
A partition divided the interior into two rooms: one 5-1/2′ × 9′, and the
second 20′ × 9′. Both doors were of the refrigerator type and were equipped
with refrigator-type hardware. Battens and caulking compound were provided to
cover and seal each joint. The surfaces to be exposed to the weather were
painted with white cottonseed-oil gum paint. Interior walls and finishings were

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

painted with one coat of aluminum paint. Each shelter was provided with an
observation house, 8′ × 5′ × 7-1/4′, which was to be erected over the hatch
in the roof of the small entry room. This house was provided with two windows
and a door. It was reached from the interior by a ladder. The observation
house was a unit in itself and could be raised above the roof as the snow level
rose from year to year. Materials were provided for building and extending a
shaft from the main house to the observatory. There was enough for a shaft
30′ long. Extra sections of smoke pipe and ventilation pipe were provided for
use when a house became deeply buried. Materials were provided with each
shelter for constructing two double bunks, one single bunk, a radio table and a
work table. Complete sets of construction and maintenance tools were furnished
with each house. A Findley Drive Range, Model 19, was furnished with each arctic
shelter, and adequately insulated heater pads were provided for use under the
stove and on the walls of the corner in which it stood. The complete arctic
shelter minus the stove weighed 20,524 lbs. The heaviest single piece, a door,
weighed 503 lbs. Total cubage — 1,230 cu. ft. Largest single piece, a door,
26 cu. ft.
Ten men were able to excavate a foundation hole, lay the sills and erect the
shell of the building in about six hours. On the second day after the work was
started it was ready for occupancy. Although the building was occupied for only
two weeks, it was found that it could be heated evenly and economically and
that the ventilating system provided adequate air circulation. One building of
this type was erected at the Comanche Bay station and was used as a radio station
and quarters for four men for a year. It proved to be most satisfactory.

EA-Met. Wade: Greenland Inland Ice Weather Stations

The second building at the base was constructed of crating boards and
covered with heavy tarpaulins. It was 7′ × 9′, had a gabled roof, and was 7′
high at the ridge. It was used to house the eletrict generator and some of the
supplies. The two buildings were connected by a passageway about 6′ long which
consisted of a strong wooden framswork tightly covered with tarpaulins. This
passageway served as a storeroom also.
This station was abandoned August 1, 1944. No apparatus, equipment, or
supplies were removed from it as it was hoped that it would be possible to man
it at some future date.
Recapitulation
Analyses of the weather data recorded at Eismitte and the supplementary
data at the British station have indicated that weather reports from inland ice
stations in Greenland would be of inestimable value for forecasting purposes.
Further, it was shown that the theory of the pulsating anticyclonic circulation
of the air which had been proposed from data accumulated at coastal stations rarely
held true and that more observations over longer periods of time at central
stations were necessary before good working hypotheses and rules could be formulated.
The work of the Ice Cape Detachment has shown that the great obstacles to the
establishment of permanent, satisfactory stations on the inland ice have been over–
come. A not too difficult trail through the marginal zone was found and used
successfully. New types of over-snow mechanized vehicles can transport the great
quantities of equipment and supplies satisfactorily from coast to station sites
on the inland ice. With such transportation, heavy but adequate and comfortable
buildings can be erected anywhere on the icecap. The pioneer stage is completed.
Practical inland ice stations can now be installed.
F. Alton Wade
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