donderdag 20 november 2014

Arrived in a wonderful landscape...

This morning around 11.30h we finally arrived at our destination, Princess Elisabeth base. We had quite a long journey - having departed two days ago at Cape Town with a stop at Novo airbase of more than 24 hours. The reason was that we couldn't have two flights in a row from Novo to PE, and I was scheduled in the second flight. We spent two (semi-)nights in a relatively comfortable container until departure. The 6-hour flight from Cape Town to Novo was already spectacular as such, with an old Russian war plane (Ilyushin), with very little comfort (I will never complain about leg space anymore), an incredible noise, no windows, and (as an example) two Dixi toilets at the back of the plane. The landing was quite an experience, because (as there are of course no concrete roads on Antarctica, let alone an airstrip) the plane lands on an ice-covered airstrip, with no ways of breaking except through the engine itself. There is a camera installed in the cockpit, whose images were shown on a screen for us to see, and so we could see the landing (it was 3 in the morning but light was abundant) happening as we were the pilot. The plane slipped from one side of the strip to the other, but finally came to a stop. During the flight, we were asked to put on our 'polar clothing', and not without a reason; when unloading the aircraft (there were many tons of gear with us on the plane, so that took three hours), it was quite chilly with a lot of wind.

Unloading the Ilyushin plane, 55 scientists and adventurers have a lot of stuff.

Once the unloading was finished we could get some sleep and food and about 30 hours later, we set foot near the Princess Elisabeth station, after another 1.5 hour of noisy flying (but with very nice views). The station itself is located in an extremely impressive, wild landscape, with views in any direction of mountains, snow and ice. The building is also nice and very comfortable (Belgium can be proud of it!).
Prof. Pattyn and Dr. Lenaerts, waiting for the flight to PE.

The view outside the living room.

This afternoon, we set off with skidoos to a crevasse area, where we had security training ('what to do when a colleague falls into a crevasse'), followed by a medical training ('how to transport a wounded colleague on a sledge'). For the latter, I volunteered to be the victim, so I was packed in completely and brought back to the station on the sledge. Cool experience that was, in all its aspects, but still I hope that it won't be necessary again :)

The victim, cold but happy.

Tomorrow, we'll have skidoo training ('how to drive a skidoo safely in the sastrugi and crevasse-rich Antarctic terrain'), and start our preparations for the fieldwork (oh yes, we have some work to do).
Provisionary embarking date for the ice shelf will be next Tuesday. We had a quick meeting with Alain to make the most important arrangements.

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