Saturday, 22 December 2012

Preparations before Departure

During the last week of my stay at Utsteinen consisted mainly in checks that all instruments can operate continuously and via remote control. E.g. the condensation particle counter uses n-butanol in its measurement chambers in order to grow the particles to sizes which then can be easier optically detected. The instrument has a reservoir of 1 liter. For atmospheric conditions like suburban regions, this amount is sufficient for 1-4 weeks. In the Antarctic clean air, it will be sufficient for several months. However, surely not for almost 9 months of operation without somebody on spot who could do a re-fill. Therefore, we connected two reservoir bottles in-line, and now the instrument’s supply with n-butanol will be assured also during winter operation.
Winter operation is still two months ahead, but my stay in Antarctica ended already yesterday. Until the end of the season Erik will take care on spot of our instruments and via email and via remote control I will also stay in contact. On Friday in total 14 persons left Utsteinen (and 4 arrived new). The flight was planned for early morning, but it started to snow in the morning. On contrary to the days before, wind decreased to almost zero and low clouds moved in, reducing strongly visibility. This snowfall event delayed our departure, but it was also nice because it was again nice to see that there were specific signals around the event in the aerosol data. The snowfall was also not forecasted by the models and apparently locally influenced. However, it stopped relatively fast, sun came back and the Basler aircraft landed safely at 2pm. After unloading (i.a. fresh food) and loading and around one and a half hour of flight we arrived at 4:30pm (Belgian time zone) at Novo Air Base. The big Ilyushin carrier was planned to take off to Cape Town around local midnight. The time until then everybody used to take a nap, have a meal in the mess container or to chat with scientists from other stations, waiting also for their departure. We met again the team of German scientists who did, based at Princess Elisabeth station, many flights with the AWI Polar-6 for geophysical research. After six hours of flight we arrived this morning in Cape Town, where we now have time until Sunday evening when our flight back to Europe is scheduled. I am happy to be back, see again my family and kids.  

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