A Japanese Inspection Team at Princess Elisabeth Antarctica
The new team arrived with Denis Lombardi (seismologist from the Royal Observatory of Belgium), the team from SES Astra (Marcel Kneipp and Robert Smith), Bernt Franzen from Vertex (the satellite antenna manufacturer) and Thomas Petracca (from SingularIT, our network specialist).
The Lidia deposited them on the airstrip along with the 1.5 tonnes of cargo we'd managed to assemble in Cape Town in time for the flight thanks to Michael and a minor miracle. The outgoing team will leave in the morning and the Lidia's flight crew (Louis Belanger, Jon Sipko, Wayne and young Dusty) will bring in the Japanese inspectors.
The next morning, after examining the weather, the decision is made to fly and the scientists are off to spend the next ten days at Shirmacher Oasis. Not long after, the Lidia is back with the inspection team from Japan. The inspectors are taken aback by the size of the welcoming committee. We drive them back to the station.
After a lazy Sunday of films and technical presentations, the inspection begins in earnest. The team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Environment and the NIPR are on their first inspection tour ever. We are all on a steep learning curve. We supply some documents, which they start to read. Then Alain takes them on a tour of the installations and active systems.
After lunch, the grueling day is only half done and we answer their questions to the best of our ability. Is our environmental credibility intact? Once it's over we all shake hands and go for dinner. I don't think we did too badly.
The next couple of days are tough. We need an open weather window so the JARE team can fly back to Syowa to board the Shirase. On Tuesday morning, Louis decides to take the opportunity of the lull in the bad weather to go. We load the blue boxes and tents of the JARE team onto the plane and one flight heads off. Five hours later, the Lidia is back. Louis calls ahead to say that he and Sipko have decided to go for a second flight despite the tightness of the window. We're getting to the time of year when we start having periods of night again, and the pilots aren't allowed to fly in the dark.
Wayne heads down to the airstrip just in case they can't pull it off. As the mechanic, he has to sign off on the flight sheet order every day for a legal flight to take place. There is so much equipment to load that the turnaround time is getting tighter and tighter. Tsuchiya San calls Syowa, and they assure him that the helicopters will fly even in the dark to pick up the JARE team. There are no more reasons to delay, and the flight heads off to the east. Five hours later, the Lidia is back again. The turnaround was just in time. David has kept dinner for them. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
The inspectors have begun to settle in. They hang out between the JARE camp and the station. They look like they are having fun. Late nights and skidoo trips to the surrounding area with Shiraishi San, who knows the place quite well, keep them busy.
In the meantime, we are racing ahead with the work. Sven is teaching us how everything works. It's a lot to learn. System after system begins to fall into place. The satellite dish is up, and Thomas is really going fast with the network. Bernt has almost finished with the antenna dish and has offered to help out around the camp on anything else. Marcel and Robert are preparing to link up. We have permission to transmit. We have decided to mark this special occasion with a ceremony.
The weather window opens briefly and the Lidia takes the inspectors back to Novo. We do a group photo and say goodbye. The Head of the Delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells me that he thinks the station is perfection itself, with its revolutionary new energy system. Does that mean we passed the test?
Once everyone is away, only a few JARE team members remain on site. Tonight we celebrate. Corks are popping!
Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation