Annick Van Overstraeten - © International Polar Foundation

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Interview: Annick Van Overstraeten (Quick)

The International Polar Foundation is publishing a series of 4 interviews with some of the guests having attended the Princess Elisabeth Station's inauguration in Antarctica mid-February. How was it to see the building for the first time in its surroundings? What was it like to live in Antarctica for a few days? The second person to answer our questions is Annick Van Overstraeten, General Manager of Quick Benelux.

Did you have any expectations about the trip before you left?

I didn't know exactly what to expect, but I knew going to Antarctica was going to be a great experience. In Cape Town there was a briefing for everyone just hours before leaving for Antarctica, and they were telling us to be careful, never to go anywhere alone, always stay with the group for safety reasons. It's difficult to imagine what it will be like when people are explaining this and you've never been to Antarctica before. But everybody was a bit nervous and excited about not knowing what to expect.

The journey from Cape Town to Antarctica must have been a unique experience.

The Russian Ilyushin plane we took was amazing. All the cargo was in the passenger area and you could see all the technical parts of the plane on the inside walls.

When we landed at the Russian Station, you realised that you were in a very out-of-the way and exceptional part of the world.

What was your impression of the Princess Elisabeth Station when you first saw it?

It was very impressive. I'd seen the station at Tour & Taxis in Brussels, but when you see it against the white backdrop of Antarctica it's very special. You have to admire Alain Hubert and everything he and his team did. It made me proud to be Belgian, because the PEA project is a very exceptional and historic project. The Princess Elisabeth Station project is one of the many projects Quick is working on in regards to the environment, so to arrive there and see it in person makes me glad we participated because it's really a beautiful and unique project.

The inauguration was very special and emotional because it was in Antarctica. Everyone at the station, even the scientists, had been working really hard until the morning before we arrived to get everything ready. The two Belgian ministers gave very good speeches and Alain Hubert has been doing a great job overall.

How was your experience living at Utsteinen?

We had the choice of sleeping in the station or in a tent, and I chose to sleep in the station because I thought it would be exciting and exceptional. The station is quiet and comfortable. It's not luxurious, but the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are all quite nice, and everything is very functional.

We were able to witness a lot of the work that was going on and meet the work crews and the scientists doing research there. You could tell that they really believed in what they were doing. Many of the workers were there on a voluntary basis. It was nice seeing volunteers in Antarctica working on the station.

And then there were all the things we did around Utsteinen - taking a skidoo trip, seeing what the scientists were doing. I enjoyed every moment. I was able to experience real nature, which is something hard to find anymore in Europe. The whole trip was exceptional from the beginning to the end. When I look at the pictures now I find it hard to believe that we actually spent two and a half days in Antarctica!

Author: IPF

Picture: Annick Van Overstraeten - © International Polar Foundation

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