Last traverse and station in the background - Copyright: René Robert / IPF - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: It’s Sunday !

Today is Sunday. It's a day to rest, for those who wish to, a day to continue working at a more leisurely pace. The weather today is worse than ever. Winter is moving in and it has started to become dark at night. The wind is blowing and it snows from time to time. The temperature outside is around -10°C, but with the wind it feels even colder. I am sure that tonight the temperature will drop another 10°C.

I have just come back from a traverse to bring back the last containers from Crown Bay. Everything went rather well. In total, there have been 16 traverses. So far just about every one of them has been a different experience, making them fun but also very tiring. We are usually on the road for about 48 hours and get little sleep. We only stop to refuel or to quickly grab a bite to eat. On the last traverse we didn't have any technical problems. Both on the way out to Crown Bay and on the way back, we were blessed with sunshine and a blue sky. We're starting to have nights now and it's simply beautiful. At sunset the sky turns yellow, then orange, then purple. Everyone grabs their camera to get a photo of the sunset, but a photo can't measure up to seeing it in person.

Once we reached Crown Bay, we got to work. We unloaded the sledges and positioned the containers within the unloading area using the Hamar (the container crane) before clearing the containers of any snow that had accumulated on them and loading the sledges and the fuel tanks. Meanwhile, we met up with the second part of the convoy (Alain, Gigi, René and Didier) which had stopped in Breid Bay to pick up some fuel that had been left there the year before.

We quickly had a warm bite to eat before we started our trip back to Utsteinen. Things went just as smoothly for most of the journey back, except that the weather conditions started to deteriorate near the end. Severe winds started to blow along the plain and significantly reduced visibility. Our old tracks had become almost invisible. We had to resort to using the GPS in order to find our way. For the first time on the expedition, I drove the lead tractor. Although the surrounding view was simply wonderful, I had to remember to concentrate on my driving. Another mountain range was reflected where the RONSO ("mountain" in Norwegian) mountain ought to have been. We had to look several times before we were sure that it was really where it should have been.

After a few hours of being on the road, sleep starts to creep up on you. Luckily, there aren't too many trees or crossings here. Night fell when we reached Utsteinen. We talked about the traverse over a glass of red wine. My 12th traverse is now over. The experience was different each time. While some were easier than others, some were more beautiful than others (even though the scenery always the same: ice plains, sunshine, strangely shaped clouds, snow petrels, mountain ranges and always the same stretches of ice). The views would change depending on the position of the sun and the cloud formations. It was just superb.

The next few weeks will be calmer. Only two traverses to Crown Bay left to bring the remaining fuel back before we start thinking about our trip back to Belgium. The first ones will head back to Troll this week with a Baler flight (a 1944 DC 3 piloted by Canadians) and will continue from there to Cape Town. The other officers and I in the Defence department are getting things ready for the winter hiatus, which includes doing maintenance on the snow scooters (Skidoos), the bulldozer (Little Bull) the snow tractors (Prinoths) and the container crane (Hamar), disassembling the crane (Arcomet), setting up the fuel depot, taking an inventory of the equipment, and other such things.

I cannot give details about how the station's construction is progressing, being that I have been on the road most of the time. However, I have noticed that construction has been progressing rapidly and that everything seems to be working out well. The Prefalux team has been hard at work. Although the work in itself isn't that difficult, the ice-cold wind that blows across the ridge exhausts the workmen and requires those who work with the cranes to work with the utmost concentration.

I usually spend my time at the base camp repairing various things with my colleagues (Frank, Olli and J

Author: IPF

Picture: Last traverse and station in the background - Copyright: René Robert / IPF - © International Polar Foundation

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