Mission belge Antarctique 2018

Author: BelAntar (Page 2 of 5)

What do you need for an observation campaign in Antarctica?

By Hugues Goosse

The first thing that you think about is probably the scientific equipment needed to perform the measurements. This equipment can be relatively light and comes with you in the plane when you travel to Antarctica but it comes more generally separately as cargo or is even stored at the station.

The containers with the equipment, the ice core storage and the drilling tent.

The second element is likely your personal belongings, such as polar clothes, camera, computers to analyses the data, etc.

However, a dominant aspect in the problem, requiring a lot of time, manpower and budget is the logistics. Everything is more complex in Antarctica and thus must be well prepared and organized.

The International Polar Foundation (IPF) is responsible for the operations at the Princess Elisabeth station. This means that they are in charge of organizing the work at the station itself but also the scientific activities related to the station.

This starts first with the preparation of the scientific mission, for instance performing the medical checking of the participants and booking the flights towards South Africa and then Antarctica.

Before our arrival at the station, the IPF team organized the convoy for the field campaign in order to provide us with all the infrastructure necessary for the scientific experiments and to make our stay in the field as comfortable as possible. The food for 4 weeks in the field also had to be prepared.

For instance, IPF team has installed solar panels on the container we use as a kitchen so that we can rely on a renewable source of energy and not just on a generator for our electricity. They also have added a shower in the bathroom-container, finishing the last details only a few hours before we left Princess Elisabeth station.

The containers including the kitchen, the bathroom and the toilets, with the solar panels

Some adaptations of the scientific equipment had also to be carried out at the station, such as installing the radar antenna on one of the skidoos. The update of a software may seem simple for most of us but becomes much more complex if the connection is very slow. The help of people knowing the method to overcome the problem is thus very much appreciated.

All of this requires a wide range of skills in the team as, if you are not able to do something, it is impossible to call a specialist nearby to help you.

The field mission itself implies heavy infrastructures, with two containers put on sledges for the equipment, one containers for the storing of the ice cores and two containers for the kitchen, bathroom and toilets. Two snow tractors are required for pulling the convoy and we brought six snow mobiles for our travels on site.

The parking for the skidoos and the snow tractor.

The generator and solar panels provide energy to warm up the containers (in particular the kitchen and  the bathroom) and electricity for the scientific equipment, especially the drill.

Pierrick, our mechanics, working with the drill

Material is important for the campaign, but some specialised personal from IPF is also essential. A field guide and a mechanics are accompanying us in the field to be sure that we avoid dangerous unmapped regions, help us if any trouble would occur and to take care of the equipment that suffers a lot in this harsh environment. Both of them also help us greatly for the scientific measurements thanks to their experience.

Christophe, our field guide, in the kitchen.

This part of the work is sometimes hidden in the discussion of scientific research and logistic constrains may sometimes be difficult to understand, even for us. Nevertheless, we are grateful that it is handled properly here otherwise our scientific campaign would not be possible!

A day in the life of an ice driller in Antarctica

Written by Sarah Wauthy

As we are now well installed on our main drilling site, it is time to describe a typical day for us. You are curious, aren’t you?

First, our day depends on the team you belong to as we are separated in two groups. No, we are not talking here about a football match.

Coming back on the organization, the first group wakes up around 7 AM for a breakfast around 7.30 and a working day between roughly 8 AM and 8 PM with a one-hour break for lunch at 12.30. This first group includes Nander, Sainan, Hugues and Christophe (our field guide).

The second group, the drilling team, works during night –between 9 PM and 9 AM- because of the too high temperatures during day that would melt the ice cores. It includes Jean-Louis, Mana, Etienne and me. Pierrick, our mechanics, contributes also to the drilling but he is not totally on the night shift as he has also activities during the day.

We adapt quit easily to this new timing as the sun shines 24 hours a day. Finally, the most complex thing is to remember if you have to say good morning or good evening when you meet someone from the other group.

In order to continue to spend time all together, a joint meal is organized at 8.30. This fits to everyone as some have their dinner while others have breakfast.

A dinner/breakfast in our kitchen

A dinner/breakfast in our kitchen

This makes a fancy mess in the kitchen with plates including very different dishes but this shared moment is very important. The day group also visits regularly the drilling tent, to give some help, say hello or brings hot coffee and tea. This is much appreciated, as the nights are cold!

The beginning and the end of the day also offer the opportunity to spend some time in the bathroom, with a timing for the showers planned over several days to avoid jams and be sure that water is available. We also share the housekeeping tasks such as preparing the meals, cleaning the dishes or filling in the snow melter in order to have water.

You are now aware of the organization of a day in Antarctica. Do not forget to continue to follow our campaign!

Snow measurements

By Nander Wever

Earlier, we wrote how important snow is in the mass balance of Antarctica. During the campaign, we regularly survey the snow structure. We are particularly interested in the snow density.

The classical way would be to dig snow pits. However, snow pits are very time consuming, and you basically only get information from one specific spot.

We know that snow in Antarctica is highly variable. Not only is there a difference between snow in the interior of Antarctica and near the coast, even at meter distance the snow can be very different due to wind erosion and deposition.

We use a special device to survey the snow microstructure, called a Snow-Micro-Penetrometer (SMP). Whenever possible, we take SMP measurements. For example during our traverses to the drilling sites, regular stops to rest, eat, refuel are done every 30 km. We then quickly take about 10 to 20 samples of snow density in the upper 1 meter of the snowpack, spaced 4-5 meter apart.

Nander doing a snow survey with the SMP during a refuelling stop for the tractors pulling our field camp. The photo also shows that the snow cover is variable in the area

Nander doing a snow survey with the SMP during a refuelling stop for the tractors pulling our field camp. The photo also shows that the snow cover is variable in the area

Continue reading

Who do you meet in Antarctica?

By Hugues Goosse

I do not want to make general statements as the feeling must be very different in some American bases where more than 1000 persons lives in summer and the Princess Elisabeth Station that can host maximum 50 people.

I can still say safely that we meet much less people than in other places and if you take your snowmobile in the morning to go to the field, even in rush hours, you do not see many other ones.

Skidoo drive along the track of a snow tractor (Photo Sainan Sun)

Skidoo drive along the track of a snow tractor (Photo Sainan Sun)

Continue reading

Welcome in the ETISOL world!

By Jean-Louis Tison

Hello everybody ! Here are the fresh news of the drilling tent to tell you more about the second phase of the process in which we were obliged to move to a wet drilling mode.

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, starting at a depth of about 90-100m, just after the transformation of snow (density of 0.5 g/cm3) in firn (density 0.5-82 g/cm3) and then in ice (density 0.82-0.92 g/cm3) is finished, the pressure difference between the ice and the air in the drilling hole becomes too high.

The mechanical chocks from the cutting by the drilling head produce ice in small disks, a few centimeters wide, that makes further analyses extremely hard or even impossible in some cases (such as for instance the analysis of the gas composition of the ice because of the contamination from the actual atmosphere along the fractures).

Continue reading

Can you make a snowman in Antarctica?

By Hugues Goosse

After some snowfalls, I was able to make snowballs because the temperature here is not very low. However, it is clearly not easy to obtain a snowman as you may do at home, just starting from a small ball and rolling it on the snow, the ball increasing in size at every turn.

Your personal experience probably tells you that in order to make snowballs or a snowman you need relatively warm and fresh snow. It should ‘sticks’ enough to produce a compact ball that holds even if you throw it away or if you want to assemble several big spheres to make your snowman.

Continue reading

Happy New year from Antarctica !

Nous vous souhaitons une bonne année 2019 depuis l’Antarctique !

By Hugues Goosse

2018 ended for us with a snow storm that is now over. Fortunately, our tents resisted well and stay dry although the snow drift was relatively strong.

The visibility was reduced to a few meters in those ‘white out’ conditions. During the storm, Pierrick, the mechanics of the team, pushed the snow away with the snow tractor to avoid a too large accumulation in the camp but he had to use the GPS to avoid hiding the snow wall that protects us from the wind !

It is hard to give the feeling of the ‘white out’ from a pictures but it is the view we had from our camp. The slightly darker spots in the middle of the pictures are the skidoos, about 10 meters away

In those circumstances, the ice drillers can continue to work as they are protected by their tent but, for the other ones, that should make experiments outside it is totally impossible. We can help the driller when needed. Otherwise, we stay in our warm kitchen, analysing the data collected in the previous days and preparing the next measurements. Continue reading

One week in the field

By Hugues Goosse

We are on our main field camp for one week and thus fully devoted to the data collection.

The weather conditions are generally good up to now, with perfect visibility and relatively high temperatures. This is ideal conditions for the radar measurements of the snow and ice thicknesses and of the structure of the snow layers.

Measuring snow thickness along several kilometers long transects using a radar in a sledge tracted by a snow mobile

Measuring snow thickness along several kilometers long transects using a radar in a sledge tracted by a snow mobile

Continue reading

A white Christmas

By Hugues Goosse

I must admit that the title of this post was easy. When you sit on 500 meters of ice, there is a very small risk that you have no snow for Christmas, even in mid-summer. We could say 500 meters of ice only, because we are close to the coast. In the central plateau, it could be 4000 meters of ice.

View from our camp around mid-night when the sun is the lowest

View from our camp around midnight when the sun is the lowest (Photo Nader Wever)

As for many people, Christmas will be a special day here too. We do not have many options for clothes in our bags but we all made an effort to be as elegant as possible or to wear some special Christmas clothes and hats.

Continue reading

What do we eat in Antarctica ?

By Jean-Louis Tison

Well, it all depends on where, when and who you are!…

The first time I went in Antarctica, in 1987, it was with the British Antarctic Survey. We landed at Rothera Base, in the Antarctic Peninsula (the “tip” facing South America). There, the Base had recently been rebuilt, and the lifestyle was indeed already very comfortable: nothing to do with the first Antarctic explorers!

The Base was equipped with a full kitchen, cooking fresh bread every day .

The kitchen at Rothera Station in 1987 (Antarctic Peninsula, British Antarctic Survey)

The kitchen at Rothera Station in 1987 (Antarctic Peninsula, British Antarctic Survey)

Continue reading

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2020 Bel Antar 2018

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑