Hans Jurgen Clemens at work on the roof - Copyright: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: Tip-Top Utsteinen

Another beautiful day starts. Never expected it to be so luminous. "Tip-top" as Hans-Jurgen Clemens would say (that's the man at work on the picture). The wind flapped around the tents all night and flutes of cold air slid noiselessly through carelessly closed tent openings into minute gaps in sleeping bags and around unshielded noses. So morning was a pleasant surprise. Despite temperatures around -12°C, we were quite warm and the crew was up early on the ridge making the most of the morning light from the East.

The 13th traverse arrived back from the coast early on the 29th. Much to our surprise, they were already with us at lunch time, looking as smug as one can look after being deprived of sleep for 36 hours. Manram provided "puris" and hot chilli beans for their delectation - fusion food for Antarctic cowboys, riding into town on their mega horsepower steeds.

So, today the camp is in full occupation mode, which means all seats are taken at dinner.

Today is Greg's birthday: 30 on the 30th of January. In honour of this occasion yesterday he bathed and changed into cleanish clothes. The transformation was so complete that even Cinderella would be hard pressed to compete. He even had a new plaster cast courtesy of Dr Antarctic Jack for his wrist. Where else but at Utsteinen can you have a new plaster cast for your birthday.

Dr Jack is also busy kitting people out for the medical experiment on the effects of perpetual light and extreme temperatures on sleep patterns (Circadian Rhythms for the more "au fait" amongst us). They queue after breakfast to strap on their electronic bugs which will noiselessly spy on them all day long. Any untoward heartbeat will be recorded for posterity.

The problems of the day also queued up for attention.

The Fassi, is being difficult again, hydraulic pressure is down, and transducer troubles with the main piston have Mama Guido and Dr Frank fully occupied. It's being slow and moody, despite the beautiful weather.

The other difficulty to present itself is the sudden realisation that some of the elements which were re-weighed on site are actually heavier than expected and are at the weight limit for the fully deployed Potain crane. At the needed 26m full extension, it can only handle about 700kg. With the usual "Murphy" factor, these heavy modules (the three-window ones) are the ones furthest from the crane axis, at the NE corner of the site.

This means that the Fassi will have to be moved up onto the ridge to take on this job. Of course, with the ridge being unadapted to traffic of any kind, let alone the heavy vehicular type, a snow road has to be built to take it up there. This was the job of Alain Hubert, the Prinoth King.

He rises to the challenge without a murmur, adjusting his sunglasses and gazing into the horizon. He swings into the cab and engages the torque power, adjusts the blade, squeezes the throttle and all that suppressed power hiding under the sleek lobster exterior of the Prinoth comes to life with a satisfied roar.

One road made to order.

Meanwhile, on the unsunny side of the ridge, the modules are hitched to the slender Potain and raised silently into position, 650kg of metal and wood effortlessly moving through the crystalline Antarctic air to meet their destiny.

Meanwhile, also, Benoit and Alain Dernivois are poised in full Alpine harness over the East façade, testing the device which will be used to seal the joints of the station.

Yet more action on the West side as Guido and Klaus hitch the enormous blocs, which will become the base of the tower, onto the Fassi.

It's all action today at Utsteinen. Tip-top, my friends, absolutely.

Author: IPF

Picture: Hans Jurgen Clemens at work on the roof - Copyright: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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