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Live from Utsteinen: Monday February 2

The last two days have been so full of activities that it is difficult to keep up. Sunday turned into an unexpectedly beautiful day. The whole camp is a-buzz with activity. Everything is happening at once, and the air is thick with excitement. The scientists have hit the ground running.

Everyone is busy with some project or other. One group goes to Asuka to see if we can find flares for the next flights where contrast may be poor, because we only have two left. Another team heads off to climb the Nunatak. Meanwhile, I get to accompany Steve and Jeroen down to the first Utsteinen lake, where they have been drilling, between various administrative tasks. As luck would have it, they found water. It tasted great; gushing out, thousands of years in the filtration, pure and sharp from the depths of the wind scoop. We were so thrilled that we headed over with Jacques to the second wind scoop (with the gigantic rock formation that so resembles a church organ that we have called it the Toccata Gorge) to reconnoitre the lake, check for life forms and look for water. Again it was successful. Life abounds. Unicellular or in mats, they can be found in great quantities.

The sun slipped behind the scoop and suddenly the temperature dropped twenty degrees. Jacques and I shiver and excuse ourselves to trek back up to the head of the basin to go back to camp on our trusty snowmobile.

As we approach camp, we see that Wim Tellier and his team have managed to set up their art installation (part of the Artists' and Writers' Programme of this season) and they have started filming the installation from the air. We head out to see them and, next door, Irina and Alexander are busy preparing their automatic weather station installation. A different kind of art.

Annick and the others have been trekking around the Utsteinen Nunatak, trying to get an idea of the place.

Everyone is happy and thrilled by the progress made during the day.

Monday also turns out to be another fabulously clear blue-sky windless, day. We get notice from Novo that the Polar 5 will come to pick up a package. Meanwhile, the traverse team gets ready to head for the coast for the next consignment, and on the construction site the teams are busy finalising the cabling and water system.

The biologists head for Teltet to take samples. There is a lot of snow deposition this year and so it isn't easy.

We wait feverishly to hear what time the Polar 5 will come to pick up our package. The JARE 50(Japanese) team drops in for a visit and a discussion. They will come over to Utsteinen in two days time, with their rock samples. We flatten out a space for their tents.

Meanwhile, the Protect 7-7 Team insists on I taking a ride on their ultra light plane. Cracking jokes about Icarus I climb aboard the giant mosquito. It is an exhilarating experience, becoming part of another dimension. We fly over the station, the Nunatak and the camp and, in the sunlight, it all looks Martian. We fly over the enormous canvasses anchored in the snow. They remind me of a 17th century triptych brought up to speed.

Immediately down, I rush back to Base camp to send the weather report to Novo, and then head to the airstrip to wait for the Polar 5. It arrives exactly on time and executes a classic touch and go. While the engines are still turning, the doors open to receive our package.

We worry a little that we have run out of fuel for the skidoo, but it is not the case.

In the evening, we exchange stories of the day's exploits. Cyrille has found a new species of acarid down at the first Utsteinen lake. A little red beast. I try to hint that they should name it after me, although, I am neither red, nor do I have eight legs. Still, in life there are few pleasures as great as having a bug named after oneself. Well, maybe a mountain would be better. Resolve to look for a photogenic one tomorrow...

Jeroen and Steven have blocked their drill in two metres of ice at one of the Teltet lakes, and it has resisted all attempts to free it. Tomorrow, we will organise a search and rescue party for the drill.

Tomorrow we will build the second scientific platform. Tomorrow the sun will shine, and the Polar 5 will bring our cargo from Novo. I forget what exactly. It is too late in this nightless night to remember details.

Another day passes at speed, cold sharp and utterly memorable.

Author: IPF

Picture: International Polar Foundation - © International Polar Foundation

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