Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 30 Aug 2014

Expedition details (GPF2014b-002)

Expedition Name (& Club): Northeast Greenland Caves Project (NA)
Destination country: Greenland
Region: Kronprins Christian Land
Lat: 80.3855 Long: -22.1252 Elevation: 622 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Dr Gina Moseley
Total cavers: 5
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 0
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 2
UK/nonUK cavers: 5/0
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 1st Jul 2015 - 25th Jul 2015
Duration (days): 25
Man-days in field: 95 Man-days travelling: 30
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

-The main aim of our project is to obtain the first record of past climate change from Greenland caves.
-We shall explore the area for new, previously undiscovered caves.
-All caves, both known and new discoveries, will be surveyed and photographed to a high standard.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

This project is a pioneering study into the evolution of the Greenland climate prior to the last interglacial. Use of speleothems to further our knowledge of Greenland climate change will be a really significant achievement for cavers and cave research. This will be the first visit by a British caving team to these caves. Besides the scientific programme, we shall also be exploring, surveying, and photographing the caves.

The budget for this expedition is extremely large, and we are grateful for all financial assistance. Without the financial support, this expedition will not take place, and we will have missed (or at least delayed) the opportunity to gather much-need information about long-term climate change in the Arctic. All sponsors are credited on our project website,
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

The Earth’s climate is changing. How will it develop in the future? What will be the effects on environmental, ecological, and socio-economic systems? These are simply a couple of questions related to the changes that the Earth system is about to face. In order to help us answer them, we look to the past. Records of past climate change hold useful information regarding the Earth’s natural climatic response; they help us understand how the Earth system has changed on timescales longer than short instrumental records; they enable us to document changes from one climate state to another; they provide a baseline against which we can assess whether or not the current changes are unusual, and; their information can be fed into predictive climate-change models.

One way of trying to understand what scenarios are possible in a future warming climate, is to look at past periods of warm climate known as interglacials. The last interglacial period took place about 130,000 to 118,000 years ago, and during this time air temperature in Greenland was about 3-5°C higher than today. Deep ice core climate records drilled from the Greenland ice sheet extend back continuously 123,000 years, to the final stages of the last interglacial (NGRIP core). The NEEM ice core extends back 128,500 years, to the early stages of the last interglacial, but the basal ice is folded and incomplete making interpretation difficult. The need for information about climate dynamics during past interglacials is thus still a major, and increasingly important concern.

Using cave deposits in Northeast Greenland, we have an opportunity here to improve our knowledge of climate dynamics during a past interglacial. The cave record will most certainly cover a time period that pre-dates the last interglacial and hence the oldest limits of the Greenland ice-core records. Calcite cave deposits are formed from drip waters that have percolated from the surface, through soil and limestone, and into a cave. Since the drip waters were once connected with the atmosphere and soil above the cave, they contain valuable information related to temperature, moisture, and vegetation processes, which are then locked layer upon layer into the cave deposit. The climate record is created by analysing the chemical signature of each layer.

Our main objective will be to sample the speleothems for use in construction of the first Greenland climate record that is older than the ice cores. Conservative speleothem sampling has been a strong focus of the Quaternary Research Group at Innsbruck, and we plan to continue with this approach. Multiple cores, 2.5 cm in diameter, will be drilled from the flowstones using methods developed by project member Prof. Spötl, and the resulting holes covered up so that aesthetic damage is kept to a minimum. In addition, by modern standards, the Grottedalen caves are poorly documented. We intend to rectify this situation, and both survey and photograph the Grottedalen caves and any new discoveries to a high standard.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

Given the remoteness of these caves, very few expeditions have visited them.

The caves were first discovered in 1960, by William E. Davies and Daniel B. Krinsley, who, at the time were working for the USGS. They published a short paper in the NSS Bulletin documenting the presence of 12 caves at three different levels in the valley of Grottedalen. The caves are up to 12 m wide, 70 m long and contain glacial fill that is capped by a 10 cm thick flowstone layer and stalagmites up to 3 cm high. The presence of the caves show that extensive limestone solution has occurred in the present-day arid, north polar areas at some point in the past. The flowstone cap also indicates that there must have previously been ground water during a milder climate.

Later, during the 1980s, a French team led by Jean Francois Loubiere visited the caves and collected some samples for palaeoclimate research. Analytical methods at the time could not cope with the old age of the deposits, which indicated an age of c. 1 Ma. We are hopeful that with modern techniques, which are significantly advanced compared to the 1980s, that these deposits will now yield some more useful information. We have been in contact with Loubiere, and no sample remains for preliminary studies.

Further work was undertaken by Prof. Paul Smith of the Oxford Natural History Museum in the 1990s, but in caves to the southeast of Grottedalen. These caves were not reported to contain any deposits, and this has been confirmed by Prof. Smith via email.

Davies, W.E. and Krinsley, D.B. 1960. Caves in Northern Greenland. NSS Bulletin 22, 114-116.
Loubiere, J.F. 1987. Observations préliminaires sur les cavités de la région du Lac Centrum. Karstologia 9, 7-16.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Travel by air Manchester-Reykjavik, then Reykjavik-Constable Point.
From Constable Point, charter a flight to our drop-off location at the southwestern end of lake Centrum So.
Cross Centrum So in inflatable boat.
Hike for three days to the caves.
Return - reverse above

# from UK: 5 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £104,000 £3200 - return flights Manchester-Reykjavik, 5 people (£640 rtn pp)
£3200 - return flights Reykjavik-Constable Point 5 people (£640 rtn pp)
£48000* - Charter flight from Constable Point (£9600 pp)
£48000* - Charter flight to Constable Point (£9600 pp)
£1600 - Freight of equipment and samples (£320 rtn pp)

*There is a high chance that the empty leg of the charter flights will be sold to other groups working in Greenland. If this is the case, it will reduce both the environmental cost of the expedition, and also the financial cost. The charter flights would then be £24,000 each.

# from outside UK: 0 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £0 NA

Travel total: £104,000 Travel p.p. from UK: £20,800
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0


Total: £4,900 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £980 £1200 Accommodation Reykjavik 5 persons, 2 nights (£120 pp pn)
£1200 Accommodation Constable Point 5 persons, 2 nights (£120 pppn)
£2500 Food (125 man-days @ £20 pp pd)


Total: £4,880 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £976 We have negotiated with CASP (Cambridge University) for the rental of the following:
1)1 x Avon inflatable rubber boat complete; 2)2 x 40hp outboard engines (one as a back-up); 3)1 x Boat repair and tool kit; 4) 5 x HH Survival suits; 5)3 x 20 litre Jerry cans; 6) 2 x Boat tanks; 7)5 x sleeping tents; 8)1 x kitchen tent; 9)1 x bear fence; 10)2 x .308 calibre rifles + ammunition; 11)5 x packs of pencil flares; 12)5 x Thermarest sleeping mats; 13)1 x Cook box. - £3200

This gear is already in stor

Special 1

Total: £12,000 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £2,400 Polar logistics services from Polarsphere, UK -£12000

Special 2

Total: £2,250 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £450 £2250 Insurance. The Danish authorities require insurance coverage for Search and Rescue at a level of 1,000,000 Danish Krona (c. 106,000 GBP), and personal/medical/repatriation cover at a level of 280,000 DKK (c. 30,000 GBP) per person.
Exped Total: £128,030 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £25,606
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £25,606

Other Funding

Total: £71,860 Comments:
-Private Sponsorship £13600
-National Speleological Society £850
-British Cave Research Association £2160
-University of Innsbruck £12000

Applied for
-Tiroler Wisenschaftsfonds £9000
- National Geographic £12000
- Swarovski £4000
-HypoTirol Bank £2000
-Sculpt the Future Foundation £2000
-Transglobe Expedition £2000
-Timmissartok £500
-Petzl Foundation £5000
-British Society for Geomorphology £1000
-Quaternary Research Association £1000
-Allianz Global Insurance £2250
Total shortfall: £56,170 Mean shortfall per person: £11,234

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Mr Dick Willis
Affiliation: UBSS

Reason: Dick Willis is an experienced expedition caver whom I have known for several years. Dick is familiar with the project and has provided a reference for Transglobe, though I have not specifically asked him to be a referee for GPF.

Permission obtained?: No
Referee 2: Mr Andy Eavis
Affiliation: British Caving Association

Reason: Andy is an experienced expedition caver whom I have known for several years. I have spoken to Andy about the project and he has provided a reference for Transglobe, though I have not specifically asked him to be a referee for GPF.

Permission obtained?: No

Expedition report author: Gina Moseley