Thursday, 23 December 2010

Work and life at the station

The last days I have been busy with setting up the first two instruments – the aethalometer and the sunphotometer. Besides of this there was an introduction in security matters for all new team members. This included a driving school with the skidoos. On Tuesday, Sanne our field guide, went with us and the skidoos into the field. We drove around the Utsteinen nunatak. From first view the area seems to be quite flat, no problem. However, the terrain reveals a lot going up and down, fields of blue ice, hard and soft snow, driving along a slope – we received a good impression how it feels like driving in Antarctica. If you go too fast – fast you’re grounded. In addition, we took ‘crampons’ with us to walk on the ice and up steep slopes. The whole time we had impressive views of all sides of the Utsteinen nunatak with its wind scoops of snow and ice. Together with a clear blue sky we nearly felt like tourists. On the image you can see the southeast side of the nunatak and a view on the station from there.

Just before the driving school started, I mounted on the roof of the scientific shelter the inlet for the aethalometer. The day before the wind was too strong to work safely on this roof. Now the aethalometer is in operation and if no failures occur, it can turn whole year round. On Wednesday I installed the sunphotometer on the top of the roof of the station. The day was perfect for this – no wind, comfortable temperatures, sun. Sun is needed for the correct installation of the instrument because for the measurements it has to point directly to the sun. It was a great feeling sitting there on top of the roof, plenty of sun, clear sky and wide views, warm – Club Med is nothing compared to this. However, there’s not much time to enjoy this – the instrument needs a bit special care until it is correctly adjusted. After all, today Thursday, both instruments are working and I can go on to the next instrument. And in the meantime Stefan, the colleague of the hydrological cycle project, and I went to the automatic weather station, which is installed a bit further away, to exchange its data logger.

Life at the station is distinctly different from two years ago. Sleeping in a normal bedroom and a normal bed instead of in a tent and sleeping bag makes much of a difference. Also, there are now toilets and washing rooms with showers. The toilets are sometimes closed because the bacteria need some time to recover and to become hungry again. For this period we have the Antarctic-style toilets (no need for a more detailed description). Having a shower in the evening is really great. There is enough warm water from the water heating panels on the roof. It is no problem to have every second day a shower. However, this does not include long-lasting showers ;-) Besides of this, the communication with the outer world is no problem anymore – internet and phone calls are nearly always possible. Tomorrow it is Christmas Eve – no plans yet. I suppose there will be a queue for the one ‘public’ satellite telephone. Others have their own satellite phone with them. We will see.

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