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)
The beginning of the trip towards Antarctica was relatively standard: arrival at the airport early in the morning, queuing at the security control, crossing the border, going to the gate. The announcement of the flight was still a bit exotic and the Boeing 757 much more comfortable than the other planes we are used to!
The announcement of our flight at the gate
The plane with the bags containing the polar clothes aligned on the ground
Yesterday, we arrived late in the evening in Cape Town. Before our flight to Antarctica that it is planned for Tuesday, we have collected today our polar clothes. The International Polar Foundation has a stock that is reused by the different teams going to Princess Elisabeth station in which we can choose what we need.
The Princess Elisabeth Station is located at a latitude of 71° 57′ 00″ South and a longitude of 23° 20′ 51″ East. It is thus more or less at the same longitude as Warsaw, in Poland, but nearly 14 000 km southward.
The easiest way for us to get there is first to fly from Brussels to Cape Town in South Africa. Those first two-thirds of the trip can thus be done using a standard airline company.
Aerological complex at the Russian Antarctic station Novolazarevskaya. Pic: Tsy1980
Test build and public presentation, September 2007 of Princess Elisabeth Station Pic: Ben2
A second flight of about one hour will finally bring us to Princess Elisabeth Station. Sometimes, when the flight schedule is very busy or weather depending, we might have to spend a few nights at the “Novo “airport” before flying out to Princess Elisabeth Station.
Movie of the plane leaving Novo filmed by Stef Lhermitte in 2017
We hope that the previous post has convinced you of the interest of studying Antarctica. However, going there is expensive, time consuming and poses huge logistics problems. Does it really worth the money and the efforts while we have now a large amount of satellite data and numerical models that provide us with a more a more detailed picture of the whole continent?
Unfortunately, satellites cannot observe all the variables. They are able to detect some signals from the surface but cannot estimate subsurface changes or the composition of the snow. Furthermore, satellite sensors can be influenced by many factors. It is thus necessary to compare their observations with the ground truth to calibrate the measurements.
Our scientific equipment begins a perilous journey to Princess Elisabeth Station: Brussels, Cape Town, Novolazarevskaya, Princess Elisabeth Station! … Our 20 boxes have been consolidated with cargo of the International Polar Foundation (IPF), which manages the logistics and the operation of the Belgian Base. This year we have sent only 600 kg of material .. we travel light! ..