The team helps offloading the Basler DC-3 that just landed - © International Polar Foundation

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Some Leave, Others Arrive

On December 23rd, at 7.30 am, the nice weather finally returned. This allowed us to resume the twin-engine DC3/Basler rotations between Novolazarevskaya and our station.

Eleven team members were the first to arrive early in the morning. On the same plane were two German pilots and their helicopter mechanic, who will assist the German researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). They arrived three hours later on a second Basler. They are geologists and geophysicists who will stay with us for six weeks, their identities and missions will be detailed later.

Among the newcomers are: the base manager (Base Commander) Nighat Amin, Johan, Regis and Craig Illir. All reinforce the teams of engineers and technicians in performing multiple repairs and maintenance. Among other things, they must deal with replacing batteries and installing new solar panels.

Of course, as new arrivals land at Utsteinen, they must be briefed, especially if they have never set foot in Antarctica. The briefing took place as soon as possible to make newcomers aware of the rules in force at the station and understand safety precautions. We (that is to say Benoît, Jacques and I) have also had to work outdoors: teaching researchers how to handle crevasse-ridden terrain as well as how to pilot ski-doos.

We also had technical meetings to provide an overview of the station systems managing for the first 5 weeks. I am always amazed to see how people at the station are able to remain efficient in so many different fields at a time.

Some statistics: since the beginning of the season we have already worked 4,200 hours, which is more than 12.5 hours a day, Sundays included.

While some arrive, others go. Among these are:

  • Paul Herman, our heating expert and 'master plumber' in his civilian life.
  • Bernard Pollet, the other plumber. Remember that it was the tandem Pollet-Herman who managed the incredible challenge of installing a heating system capable of warming 36m of steel piles by -25°C at more than 6m depth (in granite). It was necessary to maintain a temperature above 20°C for 3 days to ensure that the concrete epoxy solidified properly - a feat that will remain in the memories of those who participated in the construction of PEA.
  • Christine is heading home as well. The cook for the first few weeks and praised by all. She gave the reins to David Rigotti, an old patron of the base that will take care of the cooking until the end of the expedition.
  • The American researcher Katherine Leonard is leaving as well. She worked for the BELISSIMA project, for which we went on an expedition to the coast (see our previous news items). It is already rumored that the results of Kathie’s measurements in the Southern Ocean are more than promising!
  • Last to leave were the two Spanish journalists who came to report on the station while filming a documentary on the sixth continent.

Henceforth, we will be 27 people making this wonderful first “zero emission” station in Antarctica work. The second part of BELARE 2011-12 has now started.

Author: Alain Hubert

Picture: The team helps offloading the Basler DC-3 that just landed - © International Polar Foundation

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