A woman wearing a helmet in a cave on a Greenland caving expedition.

Photo: Robbie Shone. All photos in this story are copyright of Robbie Shone and used by permission.

 

In just a few short months, Dr. Gina Moseley will board a small inflatable boat to cross a 10km lake. That is, after landing on a tiny airstrip on the Northeastern shores of Greenland. She and her team of scientists, cavers and reporters — along with hundreds of pounds of cameras, drilling tools, climbing equipment, and camping gear — will spend three days sampling deposits in some of the deepest, darkest, and most remote caves ever researched.
A woman wearing a helmet while rappelling.

The project

The team’s work will benefit the Northeast Greenland Caves Project. The project, with the mission to “explore, survey, photograph, and sample caves of Northeast Greenland for the purpose of climate-change research,” first came to Moseley’s attention in 2007. Some of her friends at a caving club in Bristol, England, alerted her to the existence of these particular caves. As an athlete and cave enthusiast, Moseley has always been drawn to the physical challenge of exploring caves. This love actually grew since she began caving at the age of 12.

“I loved it!” she says of her early caving experience. “That love developed throughout university, eventually prompting me to pursue a Ph.D. in Cave Science.” 

A person climbing around the exit and entrance to a cave.

The combination of the two disciplines — caving and the science around it — allowed her to take part in research projects across the globe, such as studying landscape evolution in Borneo, collaborating on hurricane projects, and dating meteorites.

Moseley’s current work at the Innsbruck Quaternary Research Group spurred her to undertake this new adventure with the Northeast Greenland Caves Project. Intrigued with this region’s caves, Moseley then began assembling a team to explore and research the area. 


She explains that it will be the first record of the past lives of these caves. 

A person with a headlamp lighting up a cave during Greenland caving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“Though we have excellent records of climate change from the Greenland ice cores, those records only go back around 128,000 years,” Moseley says.

The desired results

According to her, the focus of the Caves Project “should complement those ice cores, and might push our record of climate change back even farther. Analyzing the deposits in the caves will give us a picture of when the climate was warmer and wetter.”

A woman doing tests in a lab.

As a result, Moseley hopes that the project will yield “an analog for future climate change.”

A person taking samples in a cave.The Northeast Greenland Caves Project will actually be fully human-powered. For example, the team isn’t using a helicopter to reach their destination. Instead, they will trek over miles of glacial moraines and explore areas surrounding the caves.

Like with any high-stakes project, however, Moseley still possesses doubts.

“I’m nervous about failing,” she says. “I really want this to come off!”

That said, Moseley expects the samples to prove useful, even if they don’t teach something new about climate change. But if Moseley’s optimism is any indication, this trip will be one to watch.

“It’s science,” she went on to say. “If we don’t try, we won’t get anywhere. … People who are interested in climate science might have their eyes opened to the adventure side of things, and want to try something new. If we can get people interested in climate change through our expedition, we’d call that a big success.”

A person rappelling into a cave.

Read Part II here to learn more about Greenland caving and climate change, as well as Moseley’s trip.
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Follow Gina Moseley and the Northeast Greenland Caves Project at: