Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008

BT Emergency Response Team – ERTBT ERT

 

My Greenland Blog: Rob Smith ERT power man.

 

The journey: 3 day trip from Scotland to Greenland
 I started my trip from Dundee, packed everything I thought I needed for my trip to Greenland using all my camping experience (1 trip with the BB in 1977 and an ERT exercise in Hereford). The trip consisted of a short flight to Copenhagen then on to Greenland. First impressions were great it appeared like Scotland with better weather.

We arrived in Kangerlussuaq to Maniitsoq and were picked up for a boat journey to Kangaamiut.  We also managed to find Kevin King’s long lost luggage; he had last seen his luggage in Heathrow and had now been in Greenland without fresh clothing for quite a while!

 

Moving kitI noticed what looked like a leg of lamb tied to the boat.  I thought it might be some sort of bait for fishing but was informed it is how they make whale jerky.  I had the chance to taste it later when it was prepared by one of our team Ian and it was excellent.

The boat trip was an eye opener; the scenery was breathtaking and strangely calming, the local people were extremely friendly and helpful.  My description of Kangaamiut village is a small cluster of small Monopoly houses all different colours, there was also a slight smell of oil which we thought must be the whale the hunters had caught the previous week, but no, it was Kevin on the pier waiting for his clean clothes.

 

The work and staying at Tassi Camp: The team I arrived in Greenland with was Giles Reyolds (team leader), Steve and Bal.  When we arrived it was direct to Tassi Camp for a 1 night stay to drop off the first load of stores to build Geordie’s point. It was a struggle to take over half a ton of equipment up this hill and it was a phenomenal achievement for team 2 to achieve this.  We went on to build Tassi camp and Ice Camp.  When the build was over the next challenge was to maintain the integrity of the power and the comms network.

 

Ice Camp: Ice camp is the most amazing place I have ever been, or likely to travel to in my life, it is huge, beautiful and incredibly powerful. The emotions you experience are a mix of exhilaration and sadness, booming thunderclaps are generated from the glacier followed by massive chunks of ice crashing into the fjord.


But this is tinged with sadness when the mountain guides Anders and David inform you that the Glacier is receding by 50 meters per year due to global warming, so this experience might not be available for future generations to witness.

 

Tassi Camp and the media team: Great place to stay, scenery fantastic very comfortable and the wind solar power unit has worked superbly without any problems from day1.  The teams are mixing TA/ERT and Media team who are professional to the nth degree but also hilarious.   Derek and Kevin are the media guys; one is ex army and the other ex..tremely entertaining.  All of the team members are very disciplined and are recharging laptops etc. during peak generating times (windy) or are utilising the solar panels effectively, thanks for the co-operation.

 

Logistics and transport from sites: The downside of working in this fantastic rugged unspoilt location is the travel time, everything needs to be coordinated between teams/guides and patience is required, everything I take for granted is not available here and we are lucky to have excellent team leaders and organisers who are working long hours to coordinate these activities when everyone is out enjoying this fantastic place.

I would like to finish this diary with thanks to all the manager/team leaders and fellow team members both BT and the TA who have given me the opportunity to visit a very special place.

 

P.S. I hope Jude got her space hopper.

 

Rob Smith (Power Man).

 


 

6th Aug 08

 

BT ERT currently has four people out in Greenland; Craig Thorpe is manning the base Wind Powercamp at Kangaamiut with Ian, Rob and Nigel out further the fjord.  Craig is acting as the point of contact from Greenland back to the UK, whilst Nigel, Ian and Rob have been mostly battling the elements at Tasiusaq Bay.  Rob had been due to return to the UK some time back, but is now enjoying a prolonged stay until the ERT power problems are resolved.  Having to endure 2 weeks by the side of an arctic fjord as his first ever camping trip, he is putting on a remarkably brave face, and you could even suggest he’s rather enjoying himself!

 

He, Ian and Nigel deployed yesterday across the Fjord to Geordie’s Point to carry out remedial work on the battery charging system.  Geordie’s Point is a key part of the comms plan up the fjord since it provides connectivity further up to Ice Camp and to Tasiusaq, and is high up above the fjord’s edge.  A safety rope was rigged up some time ago to protect the ascent and descent to and from this location; however this doesn’t make it any easier to carry the 20kg batteries up there! Top of the world Today Ian has returned to Tasiusaq, and Rob and Nigel will be back soon.  Ian will then abandon his colleagues at another remote comms site known as the ‘island’ and gleefully return to the comfort of Kangaamiut Main Base Camp, enjoyed even more for knowing that Rob and Nigel are spending another night under wind-battered canvas!

 

25th July 2008

 

BT now has 5 members of its ERT out and about along the Fjord; Alastair Carruthers, John McGaw, Rod Edwards, Bill Gordon and Kev Bignall.  They met up with John HW and his team in Maniitsoq last Monday, and have since been unloading the ERT comms equipment and setting up on Kangaamiut Heights, the main comms site by base camp.  This now being complete, today they’re off on the zodiacs with Anders (of Arctic Guides) to Qeqertarsuad, a small island just at the mouth of the Fjord, to set up the next part of the network.  This site is better placed for the link than the previously selected location, which was known by the bizarrely un-Inuit name of Geordie’s Point; anyone who knows the Newcastle-born-and-bred John McGaw will have to ask him how it got its name!  

 

Today Giles Reynolds and his team arrive in Maniitsoq and will be ferried by Kai (our contact in Maniitsoq) in his boat Nivi, up to Kangaamiut.  Unlike the first ERT members to travel out, they are now clearly marking their hold luggage and keeping all essential comms items in their hand luggage – if anyone has seen Kev King’s 90 Litre North Face bag since he checked it in at Heathrow last Thurs, can they let us know?

 


 

ERT Background

 

The ERT was formed in 2005, with over 3500 people from all parts of the UK expressing an interest and applying for the 24 posts. Candidates applied from all parts of BT, bringing their skills and qualities to the team.

ERT Training.

 

The team’s primary objective is to maintain the BT Critical National Infrastructure in support of Government, the Emergency Services and Civil Authorities in the event of terrorist actions or serious incidents, involving hazardous materials. To carry out this role the team is required to train and exercise alongside units of the Military, Police, Fire and Ambulance Services.

 

ERT on operations in London

During formation of the team the 7/7 London bombings took place, and elements of the team were placed on standby to respond. More recently, the ERT were deployed to Gloucester supporting the flood relief and placed on standby for potential flooding in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The team has a secondary key role, to provide International Disaster Relief as part of BT’s Corporate Social Responsibility. It will deploy overseas to places where communications are needed to support aid agencies or humanitarian disaster relief.
BT successfully delivered humanitarian relief communications in Kosovo, Bosnia, Asian Tsunami and the Pakistan Earthquake.ERT team on recce. Delivery of humanitarian relief is now an integral part of the team’s remit, having also been placed on standby to deploy for the recent Bangladesh flooding disaster.

 

 

BT – Ex Midnight Sun

 

Early in 2007 the BT ERT was approached with a proposal to provide the total communications package for Midnight Sun. Considering BT is also the prime sponsors, it meant a considerable further investment from BT in manpower and equipment. The ERT took up the challenge, acquired the appropriate budget, began designing a comms plan, deployed a recce team to Greenland alongside the military planning team and began researching equipment that would deliver the communications plan.

 

Link plan

The ERT will deploy a total of 16 engineers in total. A team of 4 will deploy at the beginning of the expedition, to build a network into Eternity Fjord using a mixture of microwave and satcom equipment, terminating at the various advance base camps along the Fjord. This team will be followed by overlapping maintenance teams of 2 for continuity and at the end, a network recovery team, to breakdown, pack and ship kit back to UK. These 16 engineers will be supplemented by 4 R Signals personnel. These R Signals personnel will be selected following the ERT Training weekend in February, and will deploy with ERT engineering teams to Greenland, to assist with maintenance and to cross transfer skills and knowledge.

 

 

Furthermore, in each activity team 1 military person will be identified as the comms expert. Prior to deployment to Greenland, the ERT will provide specialist comms training to these people, as part of the training and development weekends. Once in Greenland, System Planactivity teams that strike out away from the advance base camps will be provided with comprehensive set of mobile communications equipment that will allow video, voice and data to be sent back to either the main base at Kangaamiut or the UK. The comms expert within that team will be responsible for the use and maintenance of this equipment.


 

The ERT will carry out a number of experiments in the use of renewal energy power sources to power equipment at relay sites and base camps, as part of BT’s initiative to develop clean energy sources.

This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate ERT capabilities. The ERT will work alongside Royal Signals personnel to transfer skills, knowledge and experience, providing a valuable contribution to an extremely worthwhile expedition.

 

For further information
Contact George Johnson Tel. 0207 079 5679