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Live from Antarctica: Friday January 30th

The big storm threw a lot of planning off track. In particular, the arrival of the scientists was delayed. We, in the slough of despond, scanned the meteorological forecasts from Christian (the new weather forecaster at Neumayer Station) hourly. One small weather window opened to bring in the Polar 5 which delivered our three snowmobiles, after having been waiting since mid January in Novo. The plane was headed for the Russian station, Progress, another six hours away, and Brian who was piloting the plane, was sorely tempted to stay for lunch. But the weather window was closing really fast and to avoid being trapped, the Basler took off through the white out that was rapidly descending on Utsteinen.

We waited for the next bit of clear weather and then René set about digging out and fixing the tents which had been damaged in the storm. We have to be ready for the new influx, and this does not help matters.

Finally, the Ilyushin managed to find a weather window and flew in from Cape Town to Novo, where our team of 16 was then obliged to wait for another two days. The planning began to fall apart as it became impossible to land at one station after another. The weather closed in around us, in our calm isolation.

Suddenly, we received an unexpected message from Novo that the plane was on its way. We scramble to action, removing snow from the air strip, finding some flares, frantically trying to find Koen, Henri and VDB to pack their stuff in case the plane does an about turn and returns to Novo instead of going on to Progress. In the end, it finally does though. A lot of our cargo remains in Novo, but we did receive a microscope, fresh fruit and even some radicchio salad and mint.

The newcomers seem to have had plenty of time to get to know each other and seem like a happy bunch, although a little overwhelmed to finally be here. We have lunch ready, but the Mess Tent has not been planned for so many and we are hard pressed to fit.

Immediately, the camp machinery moves into action as we discuss how to reorganise the available space to allow everyone to mingle over the evening meal, instead of having two sittings as we had planned initially. More tables in and high stools for extra seating while Pierre and Oli G organise electricity and heating for the mobile labs so as to provide an alternative computer space. René and Minac set up the dome tent to bring all the heavy work suits and clothing.

By evening it is all done.

On the station, work also picks up tempo with the arrival of Jean and Wim from Schneider and Dries and Dominique from Laborelec. There is still a lot of cabling to be done - over 4000 points to be linked to the virtual brain of the station. The water treatment unit (WTU) will be finalised and tested for water-tightness. The data networks will be put in place.

The solar panels on the station are almost finished and the first wind turbines are cabled up waiting for the grid to deliver a reference voltage, according to Sven. Everyone is in good spirits.

We have a briefing with the new influx and a meeting with the biologists before they start to investigate the terrain. The meteorologists have started to dig snow out of their container and to build up the AWS.

Wim Tellier, the photographer, has already measured up reference points to set up his art installation. It should be ready for taking pictures when the weather breaks, maybe on Monday or Tuesday.

And tomorrow, hopefully, we will be able to rest a little. This has been an intense week.

Author: IPF

Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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