Caught in a Whiteout near Balchen
The BELARE-JARE expedition is now fully underway. But unfortunately we're stuck somewhere near Balchen, and standard Japanese field protocol says we can't drive any further. We're caught in a whiteout close to a crevasse zone. I decided to hunker down in the survival container with the heating on and music playing to write a report.
The weather won't get any better for at least the next two days, which means we'll celebrate New Year's here. On December 22nd, we headed for Crown Bay with four Prinoths, three of them pulling three sledges each. The first Prinoth isn't pulling any sledge due to a leakage of the hydraulic engine, which causes overheating when the Prinoth pulls a load behind it.
The good news is that the joints for the engine are on board the ship. The Prinoth, however, began to drift the right all of a sudden during the traverse. We ended up pulling it on a sledge for the remainder of the traverse. I eventually found the problem a couple of days later: the vehicle drifted to the right every time we used the HF radio, which I think might have interfered with the printed circuit board of the ADM (transmission).
The Mary Arctica and the Shirase anchor at Crown Bay
December 23rd - We arrived in Crown Bay around 4:00 am, and the Shirase had just anchored. The next morning, the Japanese started offloading their ship with the helicopter.
We helped them set up their living containers, which seem to be too heavy for our new HIAB crane. However, thanks to the Hammar, we were finally successful. The Japanese were very thankful.
In the meantime, the Mary Arctica has arrived at Crown Bay, and Alain went to the ship to meet the captain. We spent the whole day driving back and forth. Two Prinoths rode to the ship with one sledge each to take one container each. Due to the incredible sea ice thickness this year, we had to drive past the bay until the crown-shaped iceberg at the end of the bay, where the ship is anchored. We unloaded the containers several kilometres into the bay on the sea ice.
In total, we offloaded 18 containers and loaded 16 others. Some curious penguins accompanied us to the offloading. We had finished by the end of the day.
The next morning, we moved the containers onto the ice shelf, while the mechanics installed the joint for the first Prinoth's hydraulic engine. Meanwhile, the first two convoys for the traverse were being prepared. Kristof, Sanne, Trul, Ilire and Swa need to return to the base as soon as possible with their cargo. Ilire and Swa will leave within ten days and still need to build an extension to the wood and metal workshops.
A hydraulic conduit starts to leak
December 27th - I was busy with preparing the convoy for the traverse when late in the evening, one of the hydraulic conducts started leaking. A Zip Patch seemed to be the ideal solution, and it has stayed in place so far.
Camping near Mount Romnøs
December 28th - We left by 7:00 am. At the first stop, 30 km after the Asuka waypoint towards Asuke, the Japanese accompanying us on their ski-doos were exhausted and wanted to stop. We camped a couple of kilometres from Mount Romnøs.
The old Asuka base
December 29th - We left around 7:00. Our first stop was the old Asuka base. Old tractors and ski-doos had been left behind there. We took a break to take some pictures while fans of 'antique' vehicles had a field day.
Our final stop for the day was Nordtoppen.
Waiting for better weather
December 30th - Today we left around 7:00 am and covered 40 km before being forced to stop and wait for better weather. The Prinoths had been partially covered in snow and the generator started sputtering because snow had infiltrated the air filter. The latest weather forecasts from Neumayer Station predict that the weather will not change until Sunday, January 3rd, 2010...
Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation