Sunday, 25 November 2012

Back on track in Utsteinen

Our flight with the Ilyushin went like foreseen. Take-Off in Cape Town was on Wednesday at 2330 local time. Together with us were around 50 other scientists from the German, Finnish, British, Swedish, Indian and Norwegian stations. Around two hours before landing everybody takes on his polar clothing what creates a bit of a mess in the aircraft because you have to fetch your bag with the clothes at the rear of the seats, change somehow at your narrow seat or in the narrow gangway. Anyway, after changing, everybody is longing for the landing. 5 and half hours after departure we landed safely at Novo Air Base (see also the image above; the Ilyushin has a camera in its nose and the film is shown in the cargo cabin). It is a 3 km ice runway, usable by heavy cargo aircrafts like the Ilyushin. Once landed, the cargo is unloaded and everybody helps to separate the boxes and all other equipment to the individual piles of each station destination. Half of our group had the feeder flight (smaller Basler propeller aircrafts) to the Belgian station at 7am local time, 9am Belgian time. The other half had to wait for next day because we had so much cargo (volume and weight) that it had to be split. Luckily I was on the first feeder flight. After one and a half hour we landed (bit rough) at Utsteinen where we unloaded our equipment and had a breakfast.

Since then I benefited from the quiet, calm weather to set up quite a few of my instruments. The aethalometer, TEOM and nephelometer in the specific shelter are already operational. Yesterday I set up on the station’s roof the ozone spectrophotometer and the sun photometer. And they are running well. That is really satisfying. The total ozone values are on the high side, above 350 Dobson units. However, UV radiation is high and next will be to calculate the UV index. The forecast says that the next days weather stays quiet and rather sunny. The disadvantage is that if there is only little wind, energy falls fast short as a lot of work has to be done. Therefore, the generators are often on what I see immediately in my aerosol data. Surely, these data I do not want, but one can see it as test for my instruments because it is so contrasting data to the otherwise pure air. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Antarctic summer season has started

A new season has begun at the Princess Elisabeth station in East Antarctica. A week ago the first team arrived at the station. Have a look at their reports ( It is also time for me to re-activate the blog. I will be also this season at the Belgian station. There are again a lot of things to do. First, the three instruments which were measuring during the winter have to be checked and maintained. The particle number size distribution instrument, the aethalometer (mass of light-absorbing particles) and the TEOM-FDMS (total particle mass) measured during a good part of the Antarctic winter until end of August when the power in the shelter broke down due to a minor electronic control device. However, the main station remained on power and this is really good news. It means that it is possible to run the station un-manned with remote control. Besides the three already mentioned instruments, I will re-install the Brewer spectrophotometer (total atmospheric ozone amount and spectral UV radiation) and the sunphotometer (total atmospheric aerosol optical depth) on the station’s roof, and also the instruments for particle total number concentration and particle scattering in the shelter. On the station’s roof there will also be a new pyranometer (total solar irradiation) and two sensors for UV-A and UV-B irradiation installed. In addition, I’ll maintain the instruments of the Hydrant project ( and I plan to do some snow pits, snow profiles digging again. The current plan says that we will fly on Wednesday night to Antarctica, to the Russian air base at Novolazarevskaya. At the moment I am in Cape Town, together with the next team to arrive at Princess Elisabeth – a group of 10 people, internationally well mixed (Belgian, French, British, Japanese, Swiss, German), like usual for Belgian projects.