I am back now at Princess Elisabeth station since last Wednesday, 01 February 2012. Our flight from Cape Town to Novolazarevskaya runway station took place as scheduled in the night from 30 to 31 January. After 6 hours in the Russian Ilyushin 76TD, we landed on the 3km long runway of ice with a bit snow on it. Our team of 3 scientists (Elie from Ghent University, Denis from the Royal Observatory, me), Jan, the medical doctor, and Diego and David as camera team for National Geographic and French Canal+ had then to wait one day before the feeder flight to Utsteinen and Princess Elisabeth station with the Basler could take place because of bad visibility and slight snowfall at Utsteinen. You can see the two aircrafts on the bottom image, the Basler in the front and the Ilyushin in the back. So we spent the day and a night at Novo. There is not much to do there, most of the time we took a sieste, interrupted by breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our feeder flight to Utsteinen was then at 5 in the morning (7 am Belgian time), carrying us 6 and our scientific cargo and food for the station. After 1 ½ hours we arrived at Princess Elisabeth station, with fair weather and the station team welcoming us. The aircraft was unloaded and again loaded with the cargo for the people leaving the station, mainly German geologists and geophysicists with many boxes full of … stones :-).
It is a good feeling to be back again. The circumstance that it is already the third time for me to be at Utsteinen makes everything feeling familiar. However, coming to Antarctica is always very particular, and the special atmosphere of Antarctica with its vast spaces of ice and snow and sometimes rocks looking out, the remoteness, and the purity, leaves every time a new big impression. Also the station itself is nice to see again. The second image from below shows the big satellite dish and the wind turbines. Now in February, the sun is hidden longer and deeper beyond the horizon and the Utsteinen mountains to the South. Therefore, during some ‘night’ hours the light becomes now dampened (see second image from above), but it is not becoming dark yet.
After breakfast, there was the general briefing and then there was time to get organised ourselves. I had first looks at my four installed instruments. Everything looks fine and the last days I made several checks and controls and retrieved data. The Sun photometer (third photo from below) on the station’s roof top is doing its familiar turns, pointing to the sun, as is the Brewer ozone spectrometer. My next steps will be to get the new instruments to the aerosol shelter and to install them. In addition, I will maintain the automatic weather station, not far from the station (third image from above). Yesterday, I went already there to take photos of its state and to make some checks. I went there by bike (upper image), really zero emission. Somebody from Belgium built this bike and asked if they would like to try it at Princess Elisabeth. So, it is here now and everybody has fun with it, and if the snow is not too soft, it is easy to cycle with it.