Roof beams go up - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: Utsteinen Mondays

Monday mornings on most parts of the planet are days when people reluctantly drag themselves back to work. But Utsteinen Mondays are barely discernible from Tuesdays or Thursdays or Fridays. People are up bright and early.

The generator is growling away from 6 in the morning, and all the eager beavers zip back to the tasks that the "holiday" we took yesterday deprived them of. Even on a day of rest you will find people sneaking back to the site - "Not to work" they stress, but "to organise" the site for the next day.

But yesterday we tore them away from work and took them to visit the neighbouring nunatak called Teltet, where everyone climbed to the summit, stretched their legs and enjoyed the sunshine.

I suppose that the work here has really got everyone in its grip. When they are not up on the site they are talking about it or thinking about it, or ordering more materials for it.

We've all become caught up in the tension of making something incredible happen. So when the traverse team completed their trip to the coast in about 38 hours, (giving us all a terrible fright with the unexpected roar of the three Prinoths bearing down on the camp late in the evening), they were welcomed as heroes. Once we had recovered from our terror.

Today the 11th traverse began with Didier back in the driving seat, but Olivier who has done eight traverses sitting out this one to get a bit of a rest. Normally, the resting drivers are excused other tasks, but these guys just love to be in the thick of what is happening, and you would have to nail their feet to the floor to stop them going to the site or to the vehicle park to service one of their beloved Prinoths.

Legend has it that Kristoff, from the last shift, used to spend hours lovingly chipping off excess ice from the Prinoth he drove.

The construction site is moving ahead at a speed dependent on the speed of deliveries.

The hangars are being equipped to take all the material and equipment to be stored. The tower basement is in place against the rock face, and the overhead beams are being placed at a rapid clip. I can even follow the minute to minute developments on the VHF radio which is sitting on my desk. The exchanges between the different protagonists punctuate the silence.

"Alain calling Marc. Can you read me? Over".
"Send the Prinoth". "Over".
"Marc calling Yvan".
"Bring the palette with 9B".

Fascinating stuff. You can visualise them crawling around the immense landscape with the radio hissing messages at them at regular intervals. No wonder work is fun.

Morale is still high, and we are even (such hubris) discussing the possibility of finishing before schedule (contemplate but don't dare to utter the thought out loud).

The weather is often sunny but the temperature is still very low, and as soon as you leave the sun's warm touch, it drops to -12°C and lower during the conveniently organised "night" when the sun dips briefly behind the nunatak. Then you had better already be in your sleeping bag or grit your teeth for the few painful minutes between undressing and sliding into your oh-so-cold bag, and refrain from yodelling with anguish.

Author: IPF

Picture: Roof beams go up - © International Polar Foundation

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