To Greenland and back with Kaitlyn Ross

kaitlyn ross upside down

Reindeer games.

Kaitlyn Ross knows cold. It seems Capital News 9 is always sending her out into to it to do live shots in blizzards and ice storms.

But there's cold and there's cold. Greenland is that second kind of cold -- the temperature there rarely gets above freezing. So, of course Capital News 9 would send Kaitlyn there.

She and photographer Victor Lopez went along with the New York National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing -- which is based at the Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia -- on a support mission to the science stations in Greenland. (The 109th is the wing that flew the Antarctic rescue flight for Dr. Jerri Nielsen 10 years ago today.) Their story about the trip airs as a half-hour special on Channel 9 this Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 10 am (a series of smaller segments is also online).

It sounded like a wild ride. So we emailed Kaitlyn a few questions -- and she bounced back answers about bundling up, bed bugs, and badass National Guardsmen.

kaitlyn ross greenland plane

How did this trip come about?

It came out of the blue, and was a whirlwind to say the least. The 109th had presented Capital News 9 with the opportunity and 3 days before they were about to take off my boss says, "So, do you have a valid passport?"

And 72 hours later I'm on my way to the North Pole.

Any reservations about getting on a plane headed for the middle of frozen nowhere?

I didn't have time to be nervous! It was such a quick turn around, I barely had time to pack.

The ice country part didn't bother me a bit. I was excited for that... but I am a very anxious flyer, so the C-130 had my heart pumping. The thought of landing on a sheet of ice with a 124-thousand pound plane is pretty terrifying.

They put me up in the cockpit with a helmet and an air mask -- my knuckles are white as we come hurtling toward miles of ice. I'm sweating. And the pilots are calm as cucumbers, like: "You want a soda?" HA!

But we were flying 6 to 8 hours a day, so you get used to it pretty quick.

What are the pilots like?

The pilots are some of the coolest and most interesting people I have ever met. Not to give away the whole show, but there's one guy who lives in Denmark, commutes to Scotia, and flies out to Greenland. Crazy! But they're also incredibly patient and accommodating.

There were 3 TV crews on the trip from all over New York State, and anything we needed they came up with. This one guy hiked to the top of a mountain with Victor and I so we could get just one shot of the town. Plus they're all enormously talented and knowledgeable.

kaitlyn ross greenland populationHow long did the flight take? And how long were you in Greenland?

It's a 1700 mile trip from the Guard base in Scotia to Greenland, and we were in the air for just over 6 hours. Once we got there though, we were flying every day to see the ice sheet, the research camps, and the practice landing site. We were there for seven days.

Any problems or complications?

We were supposed to be there for six days, but we got stuck for one day longer because of a problem with the planes. And when you're stuck at the North Pole, you're STUCK.

Going in to a trip like this though, you should expect a few complications. Because the weather is so severe, a lot of their time is spent waiting to take off. The folks there are so patient though, it doesn't bother them at all. It turned out to be really fortunate because we had the chance to see a few more things.

I also had a run-in with Santa's bed bugs. I mention this only because it's incredible to believe they can survive at the North Pole... but I had the bites on my arm to prove it! (I just hope the people from the rustic Musk Ox Inn in Kangerlussuaq aren't AOA fans :) )

What's the culture like at these research stations?

The atmosphere at the research centers is like a whole different world. I'm not sure there is any way I can do it justice without pictures.

They let you off the plane and you are quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Six miles of visibility -- all pure white in any direction -- and cold like you've never felt before. Then you get on snowmobiles and head out to the camps.

They do most of the work in air conditioned ice caves 200 feet below the surface. (Really? Air conditioning? Apparently 10 below is tropical.) And their jobs are just fascinating. Really cutting edge atmospheric research -- and since it's a cooperative between 14 countries, different perspectives and world view points as well.

kaitlyn ross greenland coldSo, how cold was it?

How cold was it? Please reference "air-conditioned-snow-cave" description for an idea.

The 109th provided us with military issue, extreme weather gear -- and I was still shakin' in my boots. Then add on trying to operate a camera and film segments in said environment. The out-takes (which Victor refuses to delete, AHEM) are hilarious because my entire face is frozen.

So there I am, with my ice lips, trying to make TV magic, when out walks a National Guardsmen in a SHORT-SLEEVED T-SHIRT! Now I'm no cold weather wimp -- but that was badass.

So, after Greenland, are those winter stand-ups that you do like a day at the beach now?

If [that guy] can do the Greenlandic ice sheet in a t-shirt, I'm sure I can manage another winter on State Street.

Bring it Albany!


Bonus detail the 109th is scheduled to fly to Antarctica next week. [TU]

photos: Kaitlyn Ross/Victor Lopez/CapNews9


Not to nitpick (much), but Greenland isn't the North Pole. Not even close. I might have accepted Kaitlyn calling her destination the North Pole once for hyperbole, but three times in this short little article?

Oh, now she's done it. She's gone and taunted the weather. I feel nearly certain that it shall now be brung by mother nature. Blast you Kaitlyn!!!!! :) (srsly though, mother was going to bring it before she said anything...)

James, you are partially correct. Greenland is not home to the North pole, no one has claim to that. But it does however have the Geomagnetic North Pole, which attracts any compass. In common vernacular of greenland, it is appropriate to say you are going to the north pole. You should probably should research your posts a little better.

Here's a bit more about both the North Pole -- and the North Magnetic Pole.

And I think we can probably move on. I hear it's rather chilly up there this time of year. Let's think of warmer places.

I think Kaitlyn Ross is great. There's something inherently "local" about her, and she's full of enthusiasm. Really fun to watch, and she seems to have a good attitude about reporting from outdoors in the crappiest weather the producers can find.

It's like they are trying to put her through a hazing ritual, but she meets every challenge.

Great job Kaitlyn. You do a great job on Channel 9 and in this e-mail. Enjoyed this. Lots of luck in your career.

Aunt Marie

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