Sunday, 10 December 2017

Work and life at Princess Elisabeth Station

the CHASE team plus Jacques from Canada (oups, from Quebec)

It is now the 18th day that I am at Princess Elisabeth station. We arrived on Thursday 23rd November in the evening and since then I have been busy with a lot of things. The first two days we – the group of scientists which who I am right now here- got various trainings – from medical to skidoo driving and mechanics, handling a GPS, finding a waypoint and following a route, to rope techniques and rescuing somebody out of a crevasse.

From Sunday 26 December on I had time to look after the many instruments I am here for. It was and it is quite a full agenda. In the aerosol instrument shelter three of the five instruments are running again after checks, maintenance and calibration (the Aethalometer, the Nephelometer and the Laser Aerosol Spectrometer). The TEOM-FDMS and the Condensation Particle Counter (total mass concentration and total particle number, respectively) are not working and after several unsuccessful checks I will most probably have to take them back with me for profound repair. The Brewer ozone spectrophotometer is up and running again. The total ozone column is around 300 to 330 DU, a normal value for this time and sign that this year’s ozone hole filled up rapidly. The UV index maximum per day is around 5, once we were touching 6. Also up and running are the sensors for total solar radiation and integrated UV-A and UV-B radiation. Total solar can reach up to 1000 W/m2 around noon these days. The Sun photometer has been re-installed and it is working nicely again, as well as the MAX-DOAS instruments of the Space Aeronomy institute. I have also checked and maintained the instruments for cloud and precipitation detection – the ceilometer, micro-rain radar and pyrometer (see also This season we are in addition installing a second micro-rain radar (from University of Bonn, Germany), in order to compare with ours. Friday late evening we had a short real snowfall event when for around 30 minutes low clouds passed our station. IPF has also put online a description of the Aerocloud project - see here.

In order to save energy, space, cabling and to assure a higher security to access the IT infrastructure of the station, I am also busy, together with Johnny and Thomas, to migrate one instrument after the other to a virtual machine on a central server. This way, our dozens of laptops and desktops get obsolete, access is safer and better controlled and energy demand during winter will be much less. However, if it sounds easy to install some software on a server, it is in practice more complicated to install the instruments with their individual communication needs and wishes.

And further, I am also busy with the new project, CHASE, to collect particles on filters. Nadine and Christophe have been very busy to install many passive samplers at and around PE station (see their posts on Together, we have also installed three pumps for the active sampling of particles on filters. Johnny helped us a lot to install tubings, pumps, inlets in and on the new ‘Atmos’ shelter. When Nadine and Christophe left to the coast in order to install there several passive samplers, I started the first filter samples with the pumps on 6 December. They will run 7 days continuously in order to collect enough mass for the analysis in the labs. It is another story to prepare clean filters and install them clean.

the shelter, inlets of the active sampling of atmospheric particles, with station in background

Although this is my seventh time at the station, it is still and again exceptional. The landscape is magnificent, the horizon wide, light, clouds and sky are in steady beautiful change and the feeling being far away from the next settlement with human beings (Russian station Novo at 450 km and the Japanese station Syowa at 650 km) gives rise to think about yourself. And also living together in a group in this special environment adds to the unique experience. In the beginning we were 27 altogether at the station, now we are with 10, the others left for glaciological research towards the ice shelf near the coast, others in order to unload the ship with containers destined for all kind of filling up stocks of the station. With ten – life at station is much quieter, everybody is doing his job during the day and the daily duties like kitchen aid, cleaning rooms, etc is taken over by one or the other, no plan is necessary. In the evenings we sit also often together and talk, discuss,… There are also moments when one can have time for himself, e.g. after lunch for half an hour or in the evening or on Sundays when work pressure is less. I sit often late evening in the ‘tower’ where several of my instrument-pc’s are located for supervision, but then I sit there because of the pretty view to both the mountains and the wide white ocean of ice and snow. And the light in the evening, when the sun is behind the Utsteinen nunatak is very different from the time during the day-hours. Often snow petrels are then sailing over the Utsteinen ridge and because of they are higher up, they shine brightly in the sunlight. It makes you think, enjoying and watching these birds sailing in the cold wind.