Work on the ridge - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: First days in Utsteinen

The work on the ridge is progressing so fast it gives one vertigo to see it. When we arrived, the concrete blocs were still being heated and today, a mere two days later, the Iemants structure is already going up. All the things which I only saw on the drawing board are now there in real time, like those crescents used to align the structure exactly to within millimetre accuracy.

The entire team is really going for it despite the wind that picked up today.

Seven people left on a traverse, and the rest are either working on the ridge, filming those working on the ridge or busy making new bathroom facilities, except for Emily, Geoffroy and Man Ram who have been busy feeding us in a way which has me fearing for my waistline. Home made cookies, Waterzooi, chilli con carne, bean salad... There are no complaints, and there is even the idea to make an Utsteinen cookbook to celebrate the great recipes that have seen the light of day here.

The BELARE People are just so inventive: if we don't have it, they can generally make it. Sparks fly out in a graceful arc as Julien and Gregory cut that umpteenth piece of metal to make some vital piece. They look like the Antarctica chapter of the Hell's Angels, as compared to the look being cultivated by Bernard Polet and Paul Herman, namely that of the "Crusoe Chic". Joffroy meanwhile is letting his blonde locks grow and swings around on the scaffolding of the ridge like a young Johnny Weismuller Tarzan.

Nothing is impossible around here. We spend fascinating hours designing gadgets with bits lying around in the Camp store or at the construction site. Now that the heating is no longer needed for the metal rods for reinforcing the concrete blocs we can use the parts to make something else, namely a hot water system for the new bathrooms. Paul and Bernard are torn between giving free reign to their ingenuity and making sure that people don't waste water. It is an endless job digging snow to make water. Man Ram has a sledge which he is constantly pulling around from the "water store" to the kitchen. If we are too efficient in providing washing facilities somebody will pay for it... And then there is the fuel situation. We didn't calculate hot showers for all. Each litre of water requires an enormous quantity of energy to take it from 0°C to 37°C.

We have had quite an international crowd here with people from Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Great Britain, Albania and even Nepal. Up on the slope above the camp are several flags of the countries represented as well as of those who have given us a helping hand. I think it is probably the first time that the flag of Albania and Nepal have flown side by side in Antarctica.

The sound of engines and motors begins early in the morning, and thrums on through the day, effectively putting an end to that Antarctic silence which used to reign at Utsteinen.

Maybe when all this activity has ended and the station is sitting up on the ridge like a gigantic spaceship, we will once again have silence, save for the hum of the windmills. Until then, everyone is working flat out to finish before the last Basler swoops in over Utsteinen to carry the team home.

Author: IPF

Picture: Work on the ridge - © International Polar Foundation

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