The BELISSIMA team returns to the station - © International Polar Foundation - RenĂ© Robert

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The BELISSIMA Team Returns to the Princess Elisabeth Station

“...Base Camp, Base Camp, this is Prinoth 2, I have visual and we should be with you in about an hour…”… the voice of our field guide, Sanne Bosteels, pulls me from my agitated sleep on the bench of the 10ft container that has been a shelter for all of us between our 4-hour shifts behind the wheel of the Prinoths! 18 hours on the road at an average speed of 12 kilometers an hour, with a convoy of two tractors and six sledges heavily loaded with our equipment, mark the end of our three-week stay in the field next to the coast, only a few kilometers from the former King Baudouin Base.

While there, we studied the ice shelves and their related phenomena. A detailed study of these complex phenomena help improve the models of ice shelf dynamics and the way they function, which is very important to making predictions of sea level rise.

In some cases, the presence of water underneath the ice shelf acts like a lubricant and speeds up their progress towards the ocean, thus contributing to the sea level rise. In other places, however, the melt water produced higher up on the ice shelf freezes over in the crevasses and canyons, which contributes to stabilizing the ice shelf and slowing its flow towards the ocean.

In order to better understand these processes, we spent the last three weeks travelling over the King Baudouin ice shelf. We took various ice cores, and made various temperature and salinity profiles in the ocean underneath, and in front of the ice platform, under the sea ice. We had a wonderful stay, with various adrenalin-loaded moments: the crevasses and the open water are so many traps for the ski-doos, some scientific material that let us down, the bad weather that stays with us, and the wind which prevents us from standing tall, but also many successful drillings and interesting discoveries.

I will talk more about this when I’m back in Belgium, but for the time being, I’m watching through the window of the container, and looking at the magnificent landscape around the Princess Elisabeth Station, perched on its ridge and surrounded by an impressive mountain range. We are soon warmly welcomed by Christophe, our beloved mechanic, on his ski-doo, and I open the door of the container to greet him back. We have hardly arrived at the station when everybody comes to greet us, good news spreads fast ... Home, Sweet Home … almost! One more adventure comes to an end, and we are already awaiting to embark on the next one.

Tomorrow, three freezers packed with ice samples will leave for Belgium and our lab for us to discover, in the coming months, the first secrets of the “Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf”. We’d like to thank you all, our friends at the base, at the IPF and at the Belgian Science Policy for your fantastic and unconditional support in this big scientific adventure.

Author: IPF

Picture: The BELISSIMA team returns to the station - © International Polar Foundation - RenĂ© Robert

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