Mission belge Antarctique 2018

Day: 19 March 2019

When you are at the Princess Elisabeth Station, where is the closest grocery store?

By Hugues Goosse

There is no permanent inhabitant in Antarctica. The majority of the visitors comes during summer. Some scientists spend the whole winter in stations but they rarely stay more than one year.

Consequently, there is no village, no supermarket, no shopping mall. All the goods must be transported from lower latitudes by plane or by boat (in particular for the most heavy ones). It also means that if you forget something or if you need something very specific that is not available in the station, the delivery may take some time.

Imagine you want some strawberries but this is not part of the stock at the station. You can look for the closest greengrocer in your favourite search engine on internet and check the distance. Of course, the same exercise can be done with any other product of your choice.

There are a few small islands North of the Princess Elisabeth Station like Bouvet Island, which is only at 2100 km, but they are not famous for their shopping options. The South Orkney Islands, at 3000 km, have according to Wikipedia a population of approximatively 55 in summer and 14 in winter but again this corresponds to scientists in research stations.

Australia is really far away. Kerguelen Island is at 3400 km. However, I was not able to find a nice shop there on the web. The Falklands is maybe a better option but the distance is still around 3800 km. Ushuaia in Argentina is at 4000 km. Finally, Cape Town in South Africa is at a distance of 4200 km. So, in any case, it is better to plan well the packing before you leave!

Image F. Klein.

How strong are the winds in Antarctica ?

by Hugues Goosse

Antarctica is often referred to as the windiest continent on Earth for several reasons. First, there is not many obstacles at surface like hills, buildings or trees that can slow down the winds. Second, even though large portions of the continent are flat, some regions experience large slopes that can be followed by intense winds. Finally, large temperature contrasts can induce large pressure difference and thus strong winds, at a different scale but in a similar way as in air flows in your house.

The strongest winds, called katabatic winds, occurred in coastal regions. The air in the interior of the continent, where the altitude of the surface is high, is very cold, and thus very dense. This dense air may literally flow down the slope towards the coast because of the gravity, accelerating until it reaches very high velocities.

Those winds can achieve velocities higher than 200 km/h. They are so strong that, even in winter, they can transport all the sea ice floating at the surface of the ocean away from the coast as soon as it is formed, leaving the ocean ice free even though the air temperature is -20°C.

Fortunately for us, katabatic winds very rarely occurs in summer close to the station and at our measurement sites. Nevertheless, the winds can still be very strong, blowing large amount of snow over long distances.

Vidéo taken in 2017 by Jean-Louis Tison of katabatic winds in the Ross Sea

Vidéo taken by Nander Wever during the storm that hit us at Novo station





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