A look from above - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: A look from above

Around 7am, a roaring sound drags me out of the half-awake state I was in. It's a Prinoth! This traverse, the very last one, will bring the remaining containers back from the coast. Alain leaves with Gigi at 7 am. They will make a stop in Breid Bay to pick up something up from last year, I don't remember what exactly, before they head for Crown Bay. By the time I remember all this, they are already gone.

Thanks to the work and dedication of our mechanics (Olivier, Frank, Jesko, Jurgen), who have succeeded in replacing a piece of the engine by a new one from another model of tractor, all four Prinoths will go this time. At 8 30 am, the others head for the trail, pulling the empty containers on their sledges. It's always quite impressive to see them.

My day, on the other hand, starts rather quietly. We sometimes wish we could take a break from the work on the construction site. Sure, I am physically tired, but other factors also contribute to the fact that I long for a change in my daily work routine: the ever present light is downgrading the quality of my sleep, and it's sometimes hard to live within a little group of people and to be surrounded by the beauty of Antarctica which, paradoxically, acts like a wall that shields you from the rest of the world.

Today, I want to look at all this from another perspective. I will try to see all this with an eagle's eye ... ahem, sorry, with a skua's eye of course. Skuas are a species of seabirds, feeding mainly on Snow Petrels in the Utsteinen neighbourhood. In order to comply with security measures, I have to convince Jacques, our Swiss doctor and mountain guide, to come with me to the top of Utsteinen. I do not have to insist much!

As soon as we leave the camp, even if the snow still bears the scars of the Prinoth's tracks, the magic of the Antarctic kicks in. Daily life at the base camp and the construction of the station soon fade away like distant memories. As soon as we have walked a few hundred meters, the station, the camp and the containers seem to have shrunk and look like small "Dinky Toys". Everything is dwarfed by the majesty of this natural setting.

Gone are the beams coming in all shapes and dimensions, gone are the modules waiting to be lifted and fixed to the station's structure, gone is all the waste that we carefully collect to bring back to Cape Town for recycling. The only thing left is the silhouette of the station, firmly grounded on the ridge.

Climbing in itself is not really difficult, although it required a bit of attention. The rocks feel solid under my feet as we go up, rocks on the left and ice and snow sculpted by the wind on the right, beautiful! A few difficult passages later and we get to the top of Utseinen Ÿ of an hour after we left the camp.

All of a sudden we are out of time. I just feel like sitting there, looking at the landscape. Everything seems as though it's been there forever and yet I know it changes every day. The station now looks like a mere little dot on a tiny line of rocks emerging from this infinite white surface.

It feels so good to be here! No need to say or do anything...just being. The way down seems easier. Diner is waiting for us and so is the afternoon.

François Laurent

Author: IPF

Picture: A look from above - © International Polar Foundation

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