Monday, December 16, 2013

Preparing the return

Utsteinen nunatak

Nicolas, Lionel and Reinhard are now back to the station since two days. Knowing that the field season was successful, everybody is more relaxed.

Nicolas took another full day of snow mobile (about 240 km between 20 and 40 km/h) to make sure that the cGPS stations ELIS and ROB2, installed last year on Seal nunatak and 2 weeks ago on Yet Yuten nunatak, respectively, are running smoothly.

Reinhard very happy with the successful field season

Meanwhile, Reinhard and Lionel went visiting the surroundings by foot as well as with a special crazy bicycle with large tyres. Despite the harsh climate, birds are living close to the station: the Snow Petrel and the Skua. Those birds breed on Utsteinen nunatak and have to reach the ocean 200 km ago to feed. The bigger Skuas usually chase the smaller Snow Petrels to steal their catches.

Bad weather is expected between the 19th and the 22nd so our flight schedule, or at least the rumours about it, has changed a few times during the last few days. The up-to-date schedule is to take off with a feeder flight on Wednesday 18 to Novolazarevskaya where an Iliouchine should bring us to Cape Town before the storm starts.


Return from the coast

The IceCon and Be:Wise researchers are back at PEA after a long trip (~17 hours with Prinoth). The 12 days spent on the coast were used at their maximum and good weather permitted measurements every day.

GPS measurement on Roi Baudoin ice shelf.

The entire GPS network installed last year on the Roi Baudouin ice shelf has been reoccupied. Some markers were lost during the winter due to high snow accumulation and strong windy conditions but most markers could be recovered. Additionally, a new network of 14 markers has been installed and occupied twice with a time delay of 6 days. The new network is denser than the previous one and focuses on surface depression in the ice shelf which is linked to sub ice-shelf channels: The idea is to measure the velocity gradient across these channels and to check as to whether or not the channeling introduces weak spots in the ice shelf: Actually, on the second reoccupation, unexpectedly (not seen the week before) open crevasses where visible close to this new network. This seems evidence of higher deformation rates in this region.

ROB1 GPS station in 2012 and in 2013 on Derwael

On Derwael ice rise, the team found the ROB1 GPS station as well as the coffee-can marker just a little bit above the snow surface (see pictures). During the winter, the snow accumulation was ~140 cm. The ROB1 station worked during a whole year, without data interruption. The first results show a subsidence of the station of the order of 1m in a year. No significant horizontal motion is detected which confirms that the station is indeed on the top of the ice rise. However, these first results need to be confirmed by more accurate processing when the team will be back in Belgium. In addition to the maintenance of the ROB1 station, the team also reoccupied a strain network installed last year and collected complementary radar data and kinematic GPS profiles.

All in all we completed all major objectives of this field season and – thanks to good weather and excellent logistic support from the station team and field guides Alain and Christophe– it was even possible to fit in additional measurements. Hooray.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

News from the (coastal) front

It has been a week now since Reinhard (ULB), Nicolas (ROB), Lionel (ULB), Alain and Christophe left PEA for the coast to investigate the Be:Wise network on the Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf (RBIS) and Derwael Ice rise (DIR) for the IceCon project. They now made it to Derwael Ice Rise.

First observations: there was a lot of accumulation over the last season (approximately 1.5m snow equivalent), which makes that the GPS systems needs to be dug out and put up higher (to make the solar panels and wind turbines work properly). The very good news, on the contrary, is that the system has been working throughout the year and was still operational upon arrival!

The coffee-can markers were almost completely buried under the snow, but this did not hamper them from functioning. The measurements of vertical strain at different depths could be carried out, and they will continue (even buried) to do this over the next years. All markers were still well erect and not slanted, compared to those installed on the RBIS.

At RBIS, the team has finished their job in re-measuring all GPS positions. Here, many stakes were slanted due to the wind, and some were even lost. But all in all, the complete strain network could be remeasured.

Weather is fine (and so are they) and they will continue another couple of days at Derwael ice rise before heading back to PEA.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

All is ready for the coast

reinhard setting up the warm corridor between two containers

The last preparations before heading to the coast are ongoing. The PEA team has been very active the last week, even more the last few days and this was highly appreciated by the science team.

The departure is planned for tomorrow early morning. It will take at least 17 hours to cover the 195 km between the PEA and the Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf (RBIS). Christophe, Alain, Reinhard, Nicolas and Lionel will participate to the mission.

The rather big convoy will consist in two snow groomers pulling 4 containers for the scientific equipment, all the facilities to live a nearly normal life during the next 10 days, 6 snow scooters and all the necessary fuel.

The scientific schedule is as follows :

-> 3 or 4 days are planned on the RBIS near the Pinning Point (PP1) to retrieve the strain rate markers and record their new GPS positions since last year, perform low frequency radar measurements on the ice shelf and on the pinning point to improve our knowledge of the bedrock in that area.

-> 50 kms from the RBIS, 3 more days are planned to investigate the Derwael ice rise by performing GPS and radar measurements to better characterise the Raymond bump beneath the ice divide, which will help our understanding of the last deglaciation.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A new cGPS installed south of the Sor Rondane Massif

The first main achievement of the mission happened yesterday: Nicolas, Lionel, Alain and Christophe successfully set up a cGPS on the Yet Yuten nunatak in the Röysane mountain range, at an altitude of 2371 m, 40 km south west of PEA.

This 5th cGPS installed by the ROB in collaboration with Luxembourg University, in the Dronning Maud Land forms a 265 km straight line with the 4 others cGPS installed the previous years (see map). Two systems were already operational at PEA, one in the Seal nunatak and one at the coast.

positions of the cGPS

The purpose of those cGPS is to measure continuously the lithospheric rebound due to the decrease of the ice weight since the last deglaciation. Its order of magnitude here is about a few mm per year.

cGPS installed on the Yet Yuten nunatak

Meanwhile, Reinhard has been preparing the very last settings of the radar system so every chance to perform successful field measurements is on our side. Everybody is looking forward for the departure towards the coast which is planned on Tuesday.

Two days ago, all the scientific team was brought by Christophe and Jacques (the field guide and medical doctor of PEA 14 km from the station to do the field training, which consists in pulling someone out of crevasse and, mostly, to learn how to not fall inside those ice traps that can be tens of meters deep.

Nicolas having fun in the crevasse

Thursday, November 28, 2013

First days at PEA

Finally, the complete team has arrived at PES on Monday evening. The first days have been busy with different testing of the scientific equipment and field maintenance.

Reinhard and Lionel made a lot of tests with the low frequency radar which will be used on the Roi Baudouin ice shelf and Derwael ice rise in the coming weeks. A few days have been used to find the good configuration for the radar and the last test performed today around the base was successful.

Nicolas and Christophe (our field guide) re-visited the cGPS installed last year on Seal, 60 km north to the station yesterday. After 2.5h on skidoo from PES to Seal nunatak (close to the former Japanese Asuka station), they found the station back in a reasonable state. Some problems occurred during the winter such as the damage of the wind turbines. This reflects the extreme meteorological conditions in this region due to violent easterly winds. Seal nunatak is not protected by the Sör Rondane Mountains and the conditions are completely different compared to PEA.

Nicolas and Christophe collected the data and maintained the station (e.g. checked the receiver, removed the ice on the solar panels, ...). The wind conditions were very tough, and this work took more than 3h before they returned to the station.

Additionally, Alain and Jacques recognized the path and the spot for the new station cGPS ROB2 which will be installed next Saturday. The station, the same as ULX1, will be installed 40km southern from the PES on the Yet Nunten, a nunatak of the Söysane massif.





Monday, November 25, 2013

Still people behind in Novo

Nicolas and Alexander, unlaoding the aircraft in Novo

Nicolas and Christophe are still stuck in the Novo air base waiting for their plane, a Basler which is actually waiting for better weather conditions on the PES runway. The meteo in Antarctica is difficult to predict and prone to sudden changes, but according to the last reliable forecast, they should be able to take off on tuesday under a sunny sky.

In the Iliouchine for the flight from Cape town to Novo air base (There is also prince Harry in the right, not a joke)

Waiting for them, the rest of the team is working at the station, maintaining and preparing the experiments. They also try to integrate the daily life. For the locals, the work has been really hard during the last 10 days and yesterday was the first day off since they arrived.

The landscape here is amazing, so hostile and beckoning at the same time. We can hardly imagine that there is about 4000 km of ice between us and the other side of the continent.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

J-1 to Antarctica

The plane to Novo Russian airbase in Antarctica is schedule tomorrow morning at 9:00 SAST (local time in South Africa, UTC/GMT+2h). The team will arrive at 13:00 local time, and a first flight to Princess Elisabeth will leave at 14:00. A second is programmed on Saturday in order to bring rest of the people and/or cargo.

The last two days were used for training, team building and preparation of the mission. Today, the team hiked from the Water Front in Cape town to the Lion's Head. This peak is a 670 m altitude mountain between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. The top is mainly composed by sandstone at the top and granite at the base which are older Precambrian rocks. Lion’s Head is mainly known for the spectacular views over the city.

PS: latest update: the team has arrived in Antarctica. Reinhard, Lionel and Alexander are at PEA. Christophe and Nicolas stayed behind at Novo and are awaiting a flight to PEA somewhere tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ALCI Briefing

After the ALCI meeting Monday afternoon, the team is now locked in Cape Town until Thursday evening. This is due to bad weather conditions at Novo station. This gives us the necessary time to prepare the logistic and field deployment plan for the season. This year, there are a lot of people in our D3 flight (more than 65) as well as 12 000 kgs of cargo. For Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, ALCI planned three feeder flights from Novo on the 22-23rd November. We hope that all will run smoothly.

Belgium and international teams at the ALCI briefing.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Arrival in Cape Town

The team arrived in Cape Town on yesterday morning. We get the boots which will be used on the field and checked the cargo this morning at the warehouse. We have news from the Princess Elisabeth Station, so the base seems to run again and ready to welcome the first Belgium scientific team of the BELARE 2013-2014 season. However, the weather in Novo “airport” seems to be not good enough for landing.The D3 flight (our flight) to Antarctica may be delay by one or more days. We will have more information during the ALCI (Antarctic flight operator) briefing this afternoon. We heard that will be in the plane with the Prince Harry ( We hope to have a royal flight!!

Checking of the cargo at the ACLI warehouse. Right to left: Michel (from IPF), Christophe (field guy), Alexander (from RMI) and the ALCI operator
Checking of the cargo at the ACLI warehouse. Right to left: Michel (from IPF), Christophe (field guy), Alexander (from RMI) and the ALCI operator



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kickoff of IceCon 2013 Expedition

The second expedition of IceCon in Antarctica is now under preparation. This season the scientists will leave Brussels on 16 November 2013 (until Christmas as last year). The IceCon team member is Nicolas Bergeot (ROB). he will be joined in the field by Lionel FAVIER (ULB) and Reinhard Drews (ULB) from the Be:Wise project.

Once in the field, we will install one more permanent GPS system in the southern part of the Sör Rondane Mountains. This GPS system will be used in addition to the three continuous stations already installed from Princess Elisabeth Station (PEA) to the Derwael ice rise. Moreover, we will revisit the stations installed last season on Seal Nunatak (ULX1) and close to the coast on Derwael Ice Rise (ROB1). We hope that everything worked well during the austral winter season. We also plan to reoccupy the GPS strain network and the coffee-can markers on the Derwael ice rise.

New GPS station in test at ROB. This station will be installed in the southern part of the Sör Rondane Mountains this year