Monday, December 22, 2008

Last days on ice and the storm that wasn’t

Friday 19 December 2008

Beautiful, the ascent of Utsteinen nunatak after dinner last night. No wind, clear skies and a panoramic view that stretches for hundreds of kilometres. And a neat view of the station, actually.

For days now, the radar team is working on data analysis, getting the GPS and radar data together. Kenny is processing the radar data, doing the necessary filtering etc. As we mentioned before in the blog, the collected field that the data was promising. However, now that we completed the analysis it is clear that we have more than decent data (and this collected only during a couple of days). With the radar you emit an electromagnetic signal from the surface through the ice. This signal will reflect when reaching the bedrock on which the ice rest, or when it hits water (like the ocean). So, we can use the radargrams to detect the underbelly of the ice sheet, or whether the ice floats or not. So we can easily detect grounding lines, where the ice starts to get into contact with the ocean. Moreover, from the GPS data is also possible to detect the hinge line, the line from where tidal motion influences the ice. But, more interesting, it also shows isochrones within the ice as the signal is influenced by dust etc. And these are quite interesting to study as they may tell us about the present and past accumulation rates (how much snow actually falls on the surface), ice flow and ice flow changes. Moreover, we can use these lines to improve ice sheet models, because the internal layers are very good markers. Especially the area around the grounding line is a challenge, because the ice that by motion crosses this line is ‘added’ to the ocean volume and thus raises the sea level. Understanding the dynamics of grounding lines is a thus an important part of the interaction between the ice sheet and climate.

But, back to the shear reality of everyday station life. A storm was announced, but then again it never came. Well, it was announced, but not by the forecasting crew of Neumeyer. I don’t mind that information can be interpreted or maybe ‘misused’, but if afterwards people start to say that the meteorological forecasting is not correct, then I start to feel itchy. Anyway, we all enjoyed that anti-storm with clear skies, superb visibility and lack of wind. Summer, finally after all we had endured before. A second supply of new people arrived today on base, which means that tomorrow, we pull out. The BELISSSIMA adventure is almost over, but not merely the end of ULBonIce. We still have our bloguette around. We’ll put posts some pictures on the blog, from the moment we are back in civilisation.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prinotherapy and busymania

Biological evolution is renowned to have occurred in a somewhat funny manner in Antarctica. Solitary birds, fatty seals and ugly fishes can testify for that. But Antarctic evolution has recently come up with an even more funny kind of fauna: goggles-and-big-shoe-wearing humans.

Strangely enough, some of those humans on the continent cannot stay away from their keypad and radargrams for more than 10 sec.; they're called radar geeks (or sometimes geophysicists).
Some others just spend their time making and looking after holes in the ice; they're called ice moles (or sometimes drillers).
Some others are on the look-out after cut fingers and defibrillators to test; they're called Health Angels (or optionally medical doctors).
Some others, yet, build stuffs wherever they can, like e.g. a scientific station on a bomb-proofed granite ridge in the middle of a remote ice field; they're called chain saw addicts (or eventually builders).
But those different types of people, as different and peculiar as they are, have something in common: they just can't do anything but doing their stuff. This is their passion, what fills their life, what keeps them busy.
They're busymaniacs.

As a matter a fact, a 'Prinoth' is a bully type of vehicle with caterpillar tracks used in snowy areas for various purposes, like e.g. flattening surfaces, digging holes, pulling containers, or housing crazy scientists. As
you might expect, these machines are very convenient at the station, and the latter would probably not even occupy a single pixel on the map without them.
But, as is the case with many machines (just ask Stanley Kubrick), a Prinoth can rapidly slip out of control from its user, whatever the quality of the manual. This is especially the case when a busymaniac has lost its principal occupation, that is, when there is nothing left to do. Then comes the mess - for there is no other treatment for the guy to get over his discomfort than the so-called 'Prinotherapy'. Driving full power across snow bumps and ice cracks on a Prinoth, in reverse if possible to be able to enjoy the alarm bell, becomes the only known way to date to relief the desperate soul. One of the very few counterparts, however, of the Prinotherapy being the dB level around the station during consultation hours, knowing that busymaniacs, for some reasons currently in study, never practice their medicine alone. If you have ever lived close by a Seven Eleven (USA) or a Delhaize (BEL) store and have experienced the 4:00AM nightly truck delivery, you might catch some glimpses of the intensity of the collective treatment. Anyway, this has the advantage, I have to concede, to provide you with some recollections of Big City life in case you would miss it. So, next time you feel like having a Saturday Night buzz in Antarctica, you now know what to do – just get your colleagues out of their favourite occupation. The choregraphy won’t be a long time coming.

Who said the Antarctic experience wasn't lively?


the next one in the waiting room ;-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Roof Garden

Does anyone want to walking in the garden...
Does anyone want to go dance upon the roof?

We had a bath today. But we did not stink. At least that is what we thought until we entered the brand new bathroom in the station. It is more than 15 degrees in there, you can undress without a problem, but man, you start to smell! Whenever the temperature is below zero, there is no problem; the wind probably takes it away. But at high temperatures things get even more dirty. We are cleansed now; not clean, but somehow acceptable. This means we can party. A couple of days ago we (René, the colonel from the paras, Denis and Frank) found out that they were on the same wavelength of music. Let's funk it! Al Jareau's Roof Garden made a hit in camp insofar that everyone was swinging naturally on it. Removing camp yesterday happened on the rhythms of funk. We managed – despite a white night and a cerebral white out for some of us – to close camp two hours ahead of schedule. And this was not an easy piece given the significant amount of equipment that was dispatched in the area, either for scientific or logistical purpose. When this was done, René granted us with amazing Boulettes à la Liégeoise, something that cost Frank 5 consecutive visits at the Utsteinen lavatories the day after. This says more about the freshness des boulettes than about René.

But we managed to get there. It took us 16 hours of travel over again a featureless plain of ice and sastrugis. Visibility wasn't always there, but with the help of Pinks Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon, we were capable of
finding our way across the galaxy back to the PES spaceship. 42 is the answer, man.

Bro's Dens and Frank

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Sunday 14th December

1 day to BELISSIMA's return, 4 days to the arrival of our new bunch (6 guys), 1 week to BELISSIMA's leaving to Belgium, 10 days to Christmas Eve which will be a milestone, for most of us will be at the coast by then to unload the ship, 2 and a half weeks to New Year, 63 days to the official opening of the station, 80 days to the return of the last of us. Time takes another dimension here. Not a linear transformation, rather an expansion on the micro-scale and a shrinking on the macro-scale. It's as if the present is the most important thing here, something very few of us are able to do back in Belgium. None of us is busy with what happened last week, very few of us worry about tomorrow (take the great mufti out of the equation here!), let alone next week. We live in the hic et nunc. Which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it must be the key to the amazing adaptability we all show in this extremely different environment. A curse, because it also blurs our clear vision of how exceptional the situation is.

Some of us are truly concerned about how easily we slide into a routine here, how rapidly perspective can vanish, and how we lose ourselves in the moment.

Hey, this IS going to become a metaphysical post after all! No worries, the guys will be back tomorrow.


Saturday night fever

Saturday 13th December

What does a do when routine kicks in? Cook a dessert! Today, a conspiracy of the cook and the doctor decided to combine the two major spirit lifters we have over here, namely sugar and booze, to come up with "crêpes flambées au Grand Marnier". Apart from my medical duty (which, and it's of course a good thing, is reduced to a minimum), the occasional back rubbing and hugging duty (hey, this is serious stuff, some people have pretty heavy moments here…), the Base Camp Managing Duty today involved airstrip maintenance. Meaning the airstrip had to be enlarged, prolonged, marked etc etc…At least, it ensured my tanning got a refresher. And since it was a close collaboration between the cook, the photographer and the doctor, you can imagine the local airport rose to international standards! All we're missing now is a decent lounge
and duty free.

BELISSIMA will be packing by now, if they manage to scrape their neurons back together. Apparently, the scientific success of this expedition was seriously celebrated yesterday, and this morning, the anonymous delegate reporting during the daily phone call sounded like he was still missing some body fluid…


Doing, doing, doing....done!

Friday 12th December

The end is near, for the data-collection albeit! News from the radar team: Frank and Kenny indeed ended their 100 km profile gridding, did additional GPS data-collection this morning and, I quote, collected "fucking great data". They might even have identified Raymond bumps, however, this needs to be confirmed. They also washed their hair. Yeah yeah, I know, this sounds too trivial to even consider reporting, but trust me: been there, done it, got the t-shirt, washing your hair in this environment is one of the major experiences of your stay!

As for the drill team, their reporter is far more concise, keeping telling me everything is fine. However, since they keep drilling and storing samples, I guess it's as good a summary as it gets.They are supposed to leave their respective camps the day after tomorrow, to be back here before the storm. Base camp is still what it used to be, and I have to admit I'm incredibly looking forward to their come-back, not only to enjoy their fascinating company again, but to be BCM off duty! I will give away with the greatest pleasure my electronic leash (radio and satellite phone), as well as happily surrender my weather reporting tasks.Can't wait J


Friday, December 12, 2008

Here comes the sun.

Thursday 11th December

And yes indeed, at last. It won't last. But today is a day to remember: the day the sun was shining! This morning saw a lot of activity in base camp: we had to tear these mountains down, which made the journey to the medical container feel like an expedition in itself. So for the whole morning, René (aka Crazy Frenchie) and yours faithful have been shovelling. Making the bathroom container, the laundry container, the toilets and so forth easily accessible again. And to
think it will be back from scratch in a couple of days…First Antarctic lesson: humility with regard to the product of our work. This is not our natural habitat, we're merely tolerated, so don't expect anything to make your life easy, and don't complain about it either.

As for the field: the drill team his happily drilling, and the radar team was buzzing with energy this morning. If the weather has stayed like that all day for them, they might very well have ended their 100km chase, and found the holy grail: the description of the internal layers of ice, the profile down to 700 m, and the morphology of the ice layers which do not follow the bedrock.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shortened news, and shortened stay

Wednesday 10th December

Today's news from the field: the drill team is happy: they got their samples of marine ice, Bryn got to stick his camera in every poked hole, and they even change drilling site, to broaden the sampling. The radar team has optimized the data-collection parameters, and is "gridding" their area, for the weather has slightly improved. Frank and Kenny claim to have written 4 papers during their forced confinement, which makes the return on investment from such expeditions quite interesting: from raw data to paper in 72 hrs.not bad!

Bad news today with regard to the weather: we're expecting a storm (a real one, not this tiny blizzard, white out, and 80 km/h wind we've been enjoying for the last days) as from the 16th, so the field teams have to get back by the 15th. Needless to say the news was not well received.
As for base camp, we are once again fed up with the weather.Not only the weather, but the endless snow shovelling, which needs to be done again, and again, and again.over and need a serious dose of philosophy to overcome the repetitivity and the seeming meaninglessness (knowing you will be starting all over in a couple of hours) of it : maybe this is the key to a metaphysical Antarctic experience?


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Struggling with MSR stoves

Tuesday 9th December

Fresh from the field:

Kenny and I were dropped off by Alain and Kristof in the middle of nowhere. It isn't per se nowhere; it is a known spot characterised by 2 simple numbers: 70°35.645'S and 24°01.739E. I can add another figure as well: 285m above sea level. Isn't that great? You call it an imaginary point in a vast endless plain of snow. We call it home; our new home; the geophysicist's dome. A big dome tent 6m in diameter, 3 meters high, flanked by two smaller sleeping tents. The skidoo's parked outside on the imaginary driveway. "Hello darling, I am home!" Home it is.

We arrived a couple of days ago, got acquainted with the environment: white, white and more white. Every day we take the skidoo's out (if weather permits), drive them along other imaginary lines, record blimps and beeps with radar sounding equipment and continuous GPS. It isn't exactly the sound of silence. Driving at 8km per hour on a noisy skidoo, pulling a sled with a
noisy generator that drags as well yet another sled that makes a tantalizing buzz. The transmitter buzz: the heart of the system. Hour after hour we cross the vastness of the snowscape; buzz, blimp, beep; buzz, blimp, beep. Everyday the same ritual, breaking the silence with our electromagnetic wave train: the iron rooster. Now and then we get visitors: snow petrels, Wilson's storm petrels and the other day a group of Antarctic petrels. Curious about what we are doing. Curious about the geometric way in which we try to map the empty snow space. Our only guide is the GPS that helps us organizing the unknown in a mathematical way. From x to y, from lambda to phi. Buzz, blimp, beep.

This morning was a bit of chaos in our normal pattern of everyday life. The MSR stove didn't work anymore. We rely on it to have water, to cook to keep warm and to survive. When it stops working you realize how fragile we are. Cleaning didn't help, so I continue struggling with it. Fortunately, there is a backup. But no backup of the backup (you can't backup infinitely). Dirty hands and smelly fingers, but an essential part of life. Our life at our dome. Our home.


Monday, December 8, 2008

The big boss is back

Monday 8th December

Last night (or rather this morning), at 02.00 AM, Alain and his team came back from the coast. They're bringing back a fresh post written by someone else, for a change. However, considering the current priorities -like, building a station- nobody has taken the time yet to transmit the precious USB key to faithfully yours, who's rather impatient to read the fresh news, and see the pics J

Nothing tangible has changed, and yet base camp is different. There's a kind of "back to school" atmosphere. Guess why.

Last night, we had the greatest evening walk one can imagine: the weather had given us a miraculous recess: blue sky and cotton-like clouds, no winds, and magical light. Six of us thus decided to explore the windscoop by night, to start enjoying this permanent day we have. It was, once again, magical. Walking on ice, climbing snow walls, gliding the descending slopes, sliding
the ice from the frozen lakes. It's good to be reminded we're not only living in camp and building a base, but simply in one of the most exceptional places on Earth.

As soon as I get my hands on the memory stick, I'll pass on the news!



Sunday 7th December

No revolutionary news from the field today. Sunday is a day of rest here, which is the perfect day to tell you about my experiment, being after all about sleep!. I measure the very willing and collaborating participants for 48 hrs in a row. They wear an actigraph bracelet for this whole period, which monitors physical activity and body temperature. In the morning and the evening -as well as once for every subject every 2 hours a day-, saliva samples are taken, with the aim of determining cortisol and melatonine levels. These two hormones provide information about the circadian rhythms, which we expect to be disturbed under the influence of the constant daylight. Indeed, participants to expeditions in the polar summer often complain about the difficulty of sleeping a whole "night" in this constant day. One of the goals of our measurements is thus to check whether the most evident hypothesis -the lack of a "go-to-bed" signal due to the lack of
external night- is indeed underlying these subjective reports. Another goal is to verify if the level of physical activity is able to counteract this sleep disturbance. The reasoning here can sound quite trivial -the more you work out, the better you sleep-, yet represents the interaction between the two "steering" mechanisms of sleep. On one hand, the circadian process, which is an expression of our internal body clock -which tells you once a day to get to sleep-, and on the other hand, the sleep homeostasis process, which is basically the sleep pressure that builds up with the time awake, and is also influenced by the type of activity during this time awake. And
this is where it becomes interesting to measure the degree of physical activity, especially since we have a wide range represented here: the "builders" have a very intense physical activity, whereas base camp duties require a lot less energy. Data from last year's expedition showed that the intensity of the physical activity was indeed related to sleep efficiency.

So this year, we want to expand the data-set with the saliva samples, mood questionnaires (to investigate whether potential sleep disturbances might have an effect on people's subjective well-being), attention tests, and a real polysomnography: this would allow for a more detailed investigation of sleep (qualification of sleep stages rather than only a recording of sleep duration).
Well, once in a while, a whole serious post can't do no harm.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

How deep is deep enough?

Saturday 6th December

After 45 m deep drilling, the core drill thus gave up, due apparently to the electronic controls not very well bearing the interaction with seawater. The radar team might move to another location, or set the second drill in action: we'll keep you posted.

The radar team did well today, and escaped getting lost in the blizzard. Indeed, happily getting out after their day of being "snowed in", they went a mere 14 km in the field, when Kenny, following what would prove to be a life-saving (I thought we were missing a bit of drama here.) inspiration, issued the quote of the day: "we'd better get back to check the data". And soon after their come-back at camp, the blizzard came up and whited them out. As for the data check, the radar images were processed to get thermal layer profiles of the surveyed area. With the current data, this was possible for a depth of 350 m. The results allowed for the description of isochrones (the layers of ice dating back from the same period), which showed, after modelling of the data, to date back "only" a 1000 years. And this, of course, is not enough -ah, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield, to put it in Lord Tennyson's words...-. So the current mission is to be able to modify the gain of the radar, to optimize the signal-to-noise ration, and be able to get data up (or rather down!) to 700 m deep. Again, we'll keep you posted.

As for base camp news, we enjoyed the visit of Sinterklaas! This was more than enough to give a festive colour to the day, especially because the presents included Antarctic made chocolate truffles, which ensured some severe finger-licking.

The otherwise quite virtual function of base camp manager took a very practical aspect today: there was a leak in the water tank from the washing container (aka bathroom). Now, this thing needed to be emptied, by the bucket. Tank capacity = 500 l, bucket capacity = 10 l. I have to confess I've experienced more thrilling afternoons.But hey, once this was done, the tank repaired and the bathroom cleaned, yours truly got her first driving lesson on the Prinoth. Prinoths are the tractor-like vehicles used to i) move stuff around ii) drive the convoys of sledges and iii) maintain a so-called structure in camp and on the "roads". One of the duties here is to manage the containers (waste, building stuff) and the equipment (spare sledges, which was what needed to be moved yesterday). And off we went, chasing at the mind-blowing speed of 10 km/hrs (which is actually the top speed of that thing). Nice!!!

So, if I can summarize my duties here: I answer the phone (BCM is responsible for contact with the field teams), I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (experimenting, helping the cook with the dishes, making social talk over cooking), I diagnose problems in our daily environment (and do whatever helping I can to the wise handyman who repairs it), and I drive trucks, with the sound system put up to maximum volume, singing to U2's Rattle and Hum while "chasing" over the ice.Tomorrow, I'll tell you a bit about my own experiment, before I start to feel like some unknown life form sucked my brains out!


Friday, December 5, 2008

And the core drill worked!

Thursday 4th December

Further news from BELISSIMA: the radar team and the drill team have officially split. No hard feelings though: Kenny and Frank have set camp on the grounding line, the dome, the….damn, forgot the word! Anyway, the part of ice cap, whereas the drill team remained, quite logically after all, on the drill site. For the radar work: they'll be "gridding" their area, to get detailed profiles. For the drill work: this morning calls told us that a) the drill works (halleluiah) and b) they've gotten to 3 m so far. Today will be the test to see whether the 6 m limit can be outreached.

They are lucky to have better weather than we do: serious wind has come up, and you thus notice the chill factor is no myth: whereas the temperature is approximately a very well bearable -12°C, the wind blowing freezes you off your feet. And the forecast shows nothing promising until Sunday. We're going to have "Sinterklaas" in the storm! Let's bring the ominous answer to whatever problem we face: a new dessert… And regarding desserts, allow me a very feminine sidestep here. Please, ladies, feel a bit of compassion for the writer: I'm losing weight quite rapidly since I got here, and whereas in every other circumstances, I would be more than happy to fit again in my skinny jeans, or that little black dress which has been hanging in the closet for so long, waiting for my size 6, (or 38, depending on the readership's background), here, I know it's not such a good idea to give away my thermal insulation. So, to keep up the fat layer, I HAVE to pitch up the calories intake… So tonight, I HAD to take a second serving of French fries, and I very bravely faced a second "crêpe normande" on top of the first one. Ah yes, that was today's inspiration: caramelized apples in butter, topped with "pâte à crêpes", and baked to
apple pancakes. Gee, this mission is really hard…


The deepest drillhole the drill had ever drilled

Friday 5th December

Lots of news from the field today! And lots of good news for all that matters :-) Firstly, let's start with the drill team's record breaking event: they drilled 30 meters deep yesterday. This means that not only does the drill work, it exceeds all expectations. Which means you can picture how happy Bryn, Denis and Jean-Louis are about it. Secondly, the radar team. They had a less successful day yesterday: white out all the time, they didn't really get out, let's forget about data
collection. However, considering how much ahead they were on the planning, this really doesn't matter. A bit of a contemplative day it thus was for Kenny and Frank, who, according to their summarized report over the phone, had both productive moments (paper writing and equation solving) and metaphysical experiences due to the surrounding of the "big white", the silence that swallows all sounds, and possibly more.

As for Alain, who thus went for the coastal reconnaissance of the arrival site for the boat, he gave extremely good news too: they moved from Breid Bay to Crown Bay. And at Crown Bay, they found the perfect natural shape for the unloading site: a soft slope, allowing for the easy mooring and unloading of the ship. So, they're coming back to base camp as we speak, with an additional stop at the BELISSIMA base camp.

And base camp, well, is still what it was. Although we have better weather today, and the difference is immediately noticeable in people's mood. Jokes over breakfast, and the ability to move from containers to the station to the tents without feeling like leaving for a life threatening adventure.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A walk in the park

Tuesday 2nd December

Summarised news from BELISSIMA today: all is well. I suspect the various relay stations kind of loose some information in the transmitting process, but hey, let's not be sorry about the lack of drama here. One anecdote came through from the team that got back: our guys are not excessively good at taking care of themselves, and tend to favour a monomaniac diet: first, eat all the chocolate, then, eat all the cereal bars, then eat all the cheese, then, "meal-jack" the mechanic who's been preparing a nice hot sauerkraut! I haven't verified the source, neither did
I cross-check with any other version, so just take this piece of information for what it is: plain ol' gossip!

Base camp was as usual apart from the two René's –current BCM and the photographer, aka Crazy Frenchie- getting ready to leave first thing tomorrow morning (around 05.00 AM, so that will be a pretty heavy waving out duty!). Since Crazy Frenchie is also a very experienced mountaineer, who knows the area around here pretty well, yours truly suggested a little field trip this afternoon (before I have to move with a radio, a satellite phone, and the overburdening weight of BCM responsibilities on my fragile shoulders).

And here I am back, eyes still full of ice cathedrals, gone quiet from taking the majestic beauty in. Honestly, I was starting to worry about my quite domestic adventures over here (all point taken if there's some brow frowning at this point). But this afternoon…I walked on ice for the first time, and apart from the scenery, crushing crystals with each footstep sent shivers down my spine, for there is nothing like hearing a myriad microclusters flowing over ice, sounding like a thousand delicate chimes… My my, I had a full two hours of pure poetry walking around the nunatak (which is basically the mountain, but in a fancy polar saying: actually, it's an inuit word meaning "the mountain above the ice", quite right thus…), passing through the windscoop, and getting back down along the ridge. The windscoop is at the other side of the nunatak and, as the name might give away, is a "scooped" form in snowy ice, created by wind turbulences along the nunatak's flank. The ice looks so pure and dense it reflects the blue from the sky, thus creating a surreal bluish shine on the pink granite, where couples of snow petrels nest. I took it all in, watching my eyes out, feeling the crushing ice under my studs, tasting tears blown by the wind crystallized on my cheeks and melting back on my lips…Still too woozy for sarcasm today, sorry folks!

Praise for the Crazy Frenchie: Merci René :-)


The drill site that was there all the time.

Wedenesday 3rd December

As from this morning, I 'm officially "base camp manager" ad interim. Which is nothing fun really: you got to get up at dawn (ha, dawn, I wish.when I'm in a lyrical mood again, I'll write you guys a piece about how I miss the stars) to send a local weather update to the central station for this part of the continent, every night you write a daily report about activities -nothing to quirky, no, a very formatted document called a SITREP -situation report- comprising the status of personnel, logistics, mission and so forth.And above all -that is the part I truly resent- you're running around with both a VHF receiver and a satellite mobile phone, an Iridium. Please, read mobile here as in begin-of-the-nineties-cellular: not exactly the thing that gets lost in your purse.(purse? purse??? gee, it's true, I used to carry a PURSE!). Hello??? Can we please get a bit of remoteness and isolation??? However, there's one huge advantage to those electronic-stand-by-duty: it allowed me to get a call from the BELISSIMA team at 09.00 AM this morning! So, here's the freshest (indeed!) news:

First, I have to apologize for some incorrect reporting: seems our guys are not camping on a grounding line, but on the edge of a rift, right above maritime ice. The drilling will start today (tadaaa!!!), since there was some very good radar data collected yesterday -after quite a lot of noisy rubbish apparently-, which Kenny described as "enough for a paper", to which Frank replied, of course, that two papers would be written. And after all that chasing tens of kilometers around base camp, they will start drilling 15 meters away from their tent. Again, there's a profound wisdom in this: stop running around to find what's right in front of you (told you the metaphysical would finally got a hold on me!). So, since the drill team will start the real thing today, the radar team will move to continue their survey further away, setting up an auxiliary camp on a grounding line this time. We'll keep you posted on how the core drill behaves (Does it go up??? Does it go up and down??? Does it go up and down and in circles??? Does it do it in the ice??? How Freudian.)!!!

Their morale is extremely high, they sounded like fun, and Denis did a very convincing impersonation of a penguin over the phone. The further social news tells us that this crevasseland" their practically living on, well, Bryn did not only put a feet into, but got in to the waistline. But, and again I quote: "we didn't want to worry you". The time constant of the decay of worrying with the duration passed since the worrisome event is something our modeller apparently considers quite short, otherwise this whole putting off the telling wouldn't really make sense.I should ask next time I see him!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

News from the field

Monday 1st December

This morning, 09.00 AM, we had the first live contact with BELISSIMA, at last! And good news it was: they're having much better weather than we do (the wind is chasing through camp), blue sky and moderate wind. They're in the area of interest (interaction between continental ice and maritime ice), and camping right on a grounding line. Around camp, they also have some crevasses but, I quote, "nothing to worry about, you really have to be stupid to fall into one of those!". The drilling hasn't started yet (I know, the suspense from the core drill is hard to bear…), because they're still surveying the area with GPS and radar measurements. Apparently, the drill team is eager to start, whereas the radar team wants to make sure it's worth the effort before cutting through. Until now, they've thus been chasing around the base camp on skidoo's, apparently about 100 km (must've been more than expected, 'cause one of the requests for re-supply was skidoo fuel!), and they're considering putting up an auxiliary camp at approximately 30 km, because there would be an interesting measurement zone. As for the social talk, Bryn apparently very literally got cold feet: he got at some point through maritime ice. No harm done, and nothing to worry about, needs to be added immediately. The morale is high, and they still
seem to be having lots of fun :-)

Time for the now mandatory gastronomic account from base camp. I erased the memory of Maritime Mousse (come on, I do have some form of self-respect!) by producing a rich, creamy and Über-chocolatey chocolate cake for dessert last night… And, although I say so myself, there was an indecent proportion of finger-licking all over the mess tent! René, our Base Camp Manager who's leaving to join the Belissima team tomorrow morning, has saved one half of it, but I somehow doubt our scientists will get a taste…