Jérôme Sandron (Dexia) - © International Polar Foundation

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Interview: Jérôme Sandron (Dexia)

The International Polar Foundation is publishing a series of four 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 third person to answer our questions is Jérôme Sandron, Senior Market Risk Manager for Dexia.

How did you come to represent Dexia at the inauguration?

I won the innovation award in the "sustainable development" category in an internal contest at Dexia. The prize was representing Dexia at the Princess Elisabeth Station's inauguration!

How was the atmosphere at the ambassador's residence in Cape Town before leaving for Antarctica?

The speech and the dinner at the Belgian Ambassador's residence were very exciting. I really felt like a VIP. I had the chance to speak with so many interesting people, all the while looking at my watch anticipating our departure for Antarctica only a few hours later. You could feel everyone's excitement!

It must have been exciting to land in Antarctica.

We landed 6:00 am at the Russian base. I'll always remember my first steps onto the blue ice runway there. It was so strange. I was just standing beside the plane, unable to believe I was in Antarctica. It was a few minutes before I could speak. Aside from the noise of the plane, everything was so quiet, so white and so cold.

Later that morning we flew to Utsteinen, arriving at 8:56 am. The weather was incredible with clear blue skies. I stepped out of the plane onto the snow and shook hands with the famous Alain Hubert. I couldn't find the right words to express how happy I was. It was an incredible moment!

How did you enjoy roughing it in Antarctica?

Utsteinen was very well organised. I wanted to sleep in a tent, but in the end I got a bed in one of the rooms in the garage downstairs from the station. I'm pretty sure it was less than 0 °C in there! The first night, I was cold, and the second night, I took more clothes to sleep. In the morning, most of us took a good, hot "zero emission" shower in the station's bathroom. The second morning, there was not enough water in the station so Alain had to close the bathroom. Water for the station comes from blocks of melted snow, which is not easy to make.

How did it feel to represent one of the Princess Elisabeth Station's sponsors at the inauguration?

It was such a great moment for me, knowing that I was there after having won the innovation award in the sustainable development category in a contest organised by my company. Participating in this historic event made me feel like a pioneer in sustainable development.

What was your opinion of the inauguration festivities?

I thought that it was such an important project that had to be shown to everybody. The message to the entire world and in particular to Belgians is if Alain Hubert and his team accomplished such a feat on the most hostile continent in the world, anyone can do basic things to confront climate change.

Did you have any memorable experiences?

I was lucky enough to be able to climb Utsteinen Nunatak with three other men and a guide. It was my first climbing experience, and it was in Antarctica of all places! At the top of the nunatak I witnessed a beautiful sunset with the station below. It was an unforgettable moment.

Upon returning, we went to the mess tent, drank some Belgian beers, and after an excellent tartiflette dinner, Alain gave us some wonderful gifts: a bottle to fill with snow from Antarctica, a T-shirt with the station's logo and a certificate saying that we were there for the station's inauguration!

Author: IPF

Picture: Jérôme Sandron (Dexia) - © International Polar Foundation

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