Midnight in
Marc Steinmetz and
‘SPIEGEL’ editor
Gerald Traufetter

‘A transport plane will take you up to the ice
cap. There you’ll have three hours until the
same plane takes you back again. That’s not
much, but make something of it!’ With these
words ‘SPIEGEL’ picture editor Michael König
sent me to the top of the Greenlandic inland
ice cap to take pictures of the international
ice core drilling project NGRIP. Along with
editor Gerald Traufetter, I embarked on a
5-day journey to Greenland, on a most
interesting assignment. And on one of the
darkest hours of my career so far…
     Kangerlussuaq on the west coast was our
designated base camp. From there we made
trips to Russell Glacier and to Disko Bay.
And there we boarded a US Air Force LC-130
‘Hercules’ bound for the scientists’ camp.
     The only catch: we were extremely short
of time. The ‘Hercules’ is the only means
of transportation to or from the camp. It only
frequents it in 3-week-intervals and stays
just long enough to unload and load, with the
motors running all the time. So you either


fly back on the very same plane, or you stay
for three weeks and go back on the next one.
     Unfortunately, the 3 hours were reduced
to a mere one-and-a-half. The pilots were by
no means to be moved to stay a little longer.
     Damn short for good science photography!
The ideas I had developed in advance proved
not feasible. Plus: the hurry, with zero time
to think. Plus: at –25°C the batteries of the
cameras’ motor drive leaked and died.
     In the end the two of us virtually had to
be dragged back to the waiting aircraft. With
not even the time for a moment of awe: ‘Wow!
Right in the middle of Greenland, and below
nothing but ice for 3 km!’
     Instead only black thoughts and sinister
fears on the plane: ‘Oh shit, I screwed up!
I don’t bring a single usable picture! They
send me on an assignment like this, have me
run up expenses no end, and I blow it…’
     But contrary to expectations, on the film
strips a few images turned up which weren’t
all that bad.  ;-)