Thursday, November 20, 2014

20 November 2014: the long haul to Princess Elisabeth.

BELARE, the Belgian Antarctic Research Expedition, exists 10 years. The first expedition, back in 2004, was meant to find a suitable spot to construct the Princess Elisabeth Station. The station was supposed to be build on rock (to make it longer lasting - or at least technically more simpler as it would not be covered in the ever accumulating snow. At that time we visited several potential sites that were selected according to access, rock strength and flatness of the terrain. The Utsteinen rim was far out the best place. But there was something more interesting about that place. Since it is situated at the Western side of the Sor Rondane Mountains, it is also more protected from severe winds (especially katabatic ones) which makes it so nicec to work. I mention this, because going to Princess Elisabeth demands several stopovers. The first one in Cape Town, but no-one is going to complain about that, the second one is Novo airstrip on the Antarctic coast just off South Africa. It is a less protected side and when we arrived yesterday morning at 3AM GMT in fairly good weather conditions, we had to offload the plane in a fierce wind. Most of us are familiar with those uncomfortable conditions, but it is even more strenuous for the newly arrived who are immediately confronted with the harsh conditions of field work.

Offloading the plane at Novo and separating the cargo for the different feeder flights


The weather conditions gradually improved, the wind got down by 6AM, the time we went for breakfast and when the plane was offloaded. We had quite a lot of material to unpack and pack and to shift it in two heaps, each heap for a feeder flight that would take us to Princess Elisabeth station. After a nap in the barracks at Novo, the first group and cargo left at 4PM and a group of 6 stayed behind at Novo (Jean-Louis, Denis, Jan, Nico, Raffi and Frank) waiting for the next flight, that, ..., was rescheduled for the following day. A night at Novo for part of the group and hopefully by noon in at PES.



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