To the Plateau


Since last trip we managed to get 4 sample sites done at once and as the one near the station was already serviced the first week we were here, only the 2 sites on the Antarctic Plateau remain. However, for those 2 the weather conditions need to be excellent as only then it is possible to work for an hour outside. Since the weather by the end of last week was far from prefect (read +10m/s winds and whiteouts) it gave me some time to work on the second new addition to the project this year.

A prototype that will allow us to monitor changes in the atmosphere during the year in contrast to giving the average composition of a complete year like the passive samplers do. It took some work but we managed to install it on the roof of the southern ‘Atmos’ shelter where most atmospheric measurement instruments are installed. I already can’t wait to see if it will survive winter.

After the weekend the weather promised to change, this gave us a window to go into the field. The Antarctic Plateau is a special place. It is the largest continental plateau in the world, stretching from the area around the South Pole to most parts of East Antarctica. The average elevation is about 3000m! To reach it you need to drive southwards from the station and cross the Sør Rondane mountain range via the Gunnestadbreen. A huge glacier which in fact is a very deep fjord covered by a several kilometer-thick ice sheet. If it were to melt you would be able sail here by cruise ship! (That is if there was still any harbor remaining after sea level rose 60m because of the meltwater) The thick ice layer creeping down against the mountains creates huge crevasses which can easily fit a complete Prinoth tractor. You don’t want to wander off the established GPS track here.

Driving to the top of the glacier already brings you to 2200m of elevation and this is were our first site south of the station is located. The area here is still sheltered by some rocks and mountains, so weather here tends to be quite calm. This is changes once you drive further south, and you enter the factual Plateau area. It is an impressive, huge, ice plane with absolutely nothing and stretches as far as the eye can see (and further). The wind is solely katabatic and is always blowing snow which freezes every uncovered piece of skin and fills everything with snow the moment you expose it. It is truly another world! Going 2000km further south will get you to the South Pole (don’t forget to set your compass to the geographic south!), take a left turn a little before halfway and the highest point of the region is reached; Dome Fuji at 3700m. This is were Alain will go to with a few Japanese scientists around the end of this year. We however, will stop at our most southern sample location, at 2400m of elevation. Quite surprised, we found everything intact. After a year of brutal conditions, the metal poles were still at their original height and pointing straight up, making us slightly proud of the job we did last year. Finishing this site meant the end of our field campaign for this season on which we can look back as successful! After a quick group picture, we went back down to the station marking our track as safe with bright red flags. At least Alain and the Japanese won’t get lost during the first 70 kilometers of their trip. Only one more week to go here, time to wrap everything up!


To the coast


Saturday 9 a.m. sharp is when our convoy departed for the trip to the coast, known as ‘the traverse’. The destination is a GPS point before the Frank-Kenny and Tison ice rises 160km from the station. It’s a small convoy when compared to last year. The glaciology team only consists of 3 people and a field guide taking with them; a workshop container (20 feet equipped with a generator, some tools and benches), a 10 feet “cabuz” which is a living quarter and has a small diner table and a basic kitchenette inside and 3 skidoos. All of this is pulled across the ice by a Prinoth tractor. For our project however, we like to be quick and mobile so, our group of 3 including Manu, the field guide, is traveling by Hilux with a small trailer on which all Styrofoam boxes for snow and ice sampling were tied.

The departure for the traverse is always something special as everyone from the station comes by for a hug and to say goodbye. We’ll only be gone for a few days, opposed to the Glaciology team who will stay in the field for little over two weeks! The actual drive was quite uneventful, 14 hours in a Hilux driving on a white snow plane is about as fun as it sounds, furthermore for some reason the mechanics took the radio out of the truck... The next morning the glaciologists packed up their part of the camp, a few hugs and final words were exchanged and off they went! They were going to the Tison ice rise west of our location and soon we lost communication with them. From that moment we were really on our own! Not much later we left our tiny campsite consisting of 3 tents (1 for the toilet and 2 for sleeping) as well, there is lots of work ahead.

To minimize the risk, it is best to keep the total time in the field as short as possible. The planning consisted of visiting 2 sites near to the ocean and drilling a firn/ice core on Sunday and visiting the more southern sites on the way back, Monday. Last year we had 4 days for all this! The bad weather from the morning quickly made place for a clear sky and a burning sunshine. It took three hours of driving to reach the site north on Frank Kenny ice rise were all equipment was like left last year. A new addition for this year is that we’ll drill 2 cores to 3 meters depth in the ice. It was a bit clumsy in the beginning but after a few tries we got the hang of it, until a short moment of inattention shut down the operation. The power cable of the motor got caught on the drive shaft of the drill and it broke the wires. 15 minutes of swearing and fiddling with a Leatherman later I managed to reattach the connector to a good piece of cable. Back in business! Even in a relatively short ice core like this one you can clearly see the layering of the ice and the light shining out of the drill hole is an amazing hue of blue!

As fresh snow gets deposited every year drilling an ice core gives information on the concentration of chemicals in function of time. With this 3-meter core we estimate that there is information from 10 to 15 years back in time! Nothing when compared to the deepest ice core drilled, 2.7 million years! Drilling: done, to the next site! Last year at Breid Bay, only 5km from the ocean, we installed a passive site knowing this location is a risky one as there is lots of ice drift and accumulation. Upon arriving the snow accumulation was 1.5m almost burying the installation! Retrieving the samples and breaking down the site was the only sensible decision. Fun fact though; as the ice layer gets thinner it will move faster. Because of this the poles at Breid Bay (ice thickness of only 70m) were almost 40m from the GPS location of last year.

Monday promised to be another busy day! 2 sites to recover including one on the southern point of the ice rise. As last year there was a lot of snow accumulation as well, we feared it might have been buried in snow by now. But we were lucky! The shelter of the sorbent tubes was barely sticking out of the snow! After recovering the samples Manu and I put a new pole in place with the samplers at 2m height so next year they’ll be easy to find. The final site of the coastal expedition is near Romnoes mountain already quite a bit on the way back to the station. As Stefania measured a lot of background in the samples from this area, a rock sample of the mountain was necessary. This meant crossing a blue ice field filled with crevasses, but the mighty Hilux just sailed right across it. Exhausted we arrived back at the station at midnight where Christine kept 3 plates of pasta carbonara aside for us, a welcome change after eating dry food for 3 days.



Danger !


As Antarctica can be a hostile environment it is important to know how to prevent certain dangerous situations and how to act when something goes wrong. Therefor everyone active in the field receives an intensive 2-day training.

Monday, we started with a medical training where we learned to give the first aid for minor injuries to how to manage severe accidents as well as preventing frostbite. The day was ended with a simulation exercise where Frank (Pattyn) pretended he fell from the ridge and we had to improvise a way to immobilize his back, neck and leg while protecting him from the cold with what we had until the rescue team arrived! Thanks to some inflatable mattresses, down jackets and lots of duct tape Frank was able to survive and recovered miraculously. Under the monitoring of the station’s doc, Barbara, we passed the test.

The next day, Tuesday, was just an exhibition of the amazing beauty of Antarctica. While learning basic mountaineering knots and techniques to free someone out of a crevasse, a crack in the ice formed by its movement which can be up to 30m of depth, we of course got to spend some time in one. It’s funny how such a dangerous feature can be so breathtakingly beautiful at the same time. The afternoon was spent on the seat of a skidoo refreshing some driving techniques on ice and steep slopes after which we set up our tent and lit the stove. What a beautiful day.

Of course, we’re not here on holidays and there is some work to be done. Wednesday Stefania and I fired up the active samplers which will collect dust and organic chemicals until the station closes in March. After this we decided to go to the closest passive sampling site 5 km from the station. In the valley in front of the station there is only about 15-20 cm of snow accumulation each year, this makes that after two years of being out there the samplers sunk for about 40cm. Still high enough to easily find them in the white landscape. At some other stations such as at the coast accumulation rates are way higher so let’s cross fingers we find those as easily as we did this one.

During all our scientific work that day we were not alone! There was a camera operator, Xavier, carefully following our footsteps, shooting for a documentary about the station which will be aired this summer on RTBF (and probably VRT as well). Being here for the second year means the management starts to put some more trust in you. We can go around without having a guide with us all the time and I also could take Eric and Thore, the 2 PhD students working on Frank’s glaciology team to a site nearby where they did some snow density measurements to improve their models. Frank and his team are here to close the Mass2Ant project of the ULB and will be performing some final non-destructive measurements (so no drilling but radars and snow micro pens) on the ice rises near the coast. They gave a very nice overview of what the project achieved to the stations crew talking about the ice sheet’s dynamics and how the continent undergoes mass change.

Since Stefania’s frigo boxes arrived (by a freshly serviced and painted DC-3 plane) we will be joining that team to go to the coastal areas. Departure Saturday! As the sun is always above the horizon by now and there are no visual reference points in that area of Antarctica, being there is an alienating experience. You step into this huge white world where both space and time seem to be relative. Anyhow I’ll report on that trip later.

See you,




Arrived !


We’re here! After a few days in Cape Town and a one day delay for the flight to Antarctica we are stepping out of an Ilushin IL-76, a huge russian cargo plane, onto the blue ice of the 3km long runway. It was a historic flight as it is the first one to fligh directly from Cape Town to Persues, an airstrip managed by IPF (International Polar Foundation) about 50km from the station. This means no more feeder flights from Novo airbase to Princess Elisabeth station, instead we now were offered a comfortable ride in a Hilux to the station. Novo will remain in service though and the majority of the flights will still land there.

This years research expedition is going to be a busy one! Together with Stefania and me representing the CHASE project and continuing our work from last year there are 6 more scientists working on 3 different projects with themes such as the morphology of the ice sheet and precipitation in the area. On top of this there is a group of 6 japanese geologist doing a survey in the area staying here and with all the stations crew included the station’s capacity is now maxed out at 40 people. A welcome change is that, since the construction of ‘the hotel’ was finished by the end of last season, we now all have a bedroom inside the station instead of sleeping in a container outside. A big part of the crew this season are construction workers. As the ice sheet is moving away from the station, the garage built under the station 10 years ago is sinking. Therefore it is now being teared down and replaced by a new one. Construction works or not, the station still feels like a second home and as last year we were received here by a lot of kind and now familiar faces.

After landing on Perseus the cargo loadout was slightly chaotic meaning we didn’t had the chance to check upon all of our stuff we sent here. Or at least a part of it! A lot of Stefania’s frigo boxes had to be left in Cape Town because of a lack of space in the plane, they will however arrive later this week and this won’t impact our schedule. Luckily the things that were shipped arrived safe and sound. This meant we immediately were able to get to work on Saturday and Sunday. The biggest fear I had was that, like last year, the sensors of the High Volume Sampler could be broken again, but this time everything fired up immediately first try after reinstallation.

There are 2 new additions the the program this year. A new prototype active sampling system will be installed at the station and it will run over winter, collecting VOC’s from the air when station is abandonned. Furthermore we’ll also drill some cores near our passive sampling sites with a unique big diameter titanium drill. Taking out cores of firn and ice will give us insight in how the concentrations of organic compounds varies in function of time. Next days a lot of medical and field training is planned for us so expect next blog to be filled with stories of people immobilized on stretchers and exciting crevasse stories.
Cheers from Antarctica,




Blog 7: 18/12/18

The last words of this blog are written from 37.000 feet altitude in definitely the most comfortable airplane I have ever been in. It’s a Boeing 757 which is normally used to transfer big artists such as U2, the Rolling Stones,… Yet another unique experience but a welcome chance from the vehicle I spent the last week on Antarctica in; the Toyota Hilux.

Wednesday we departed towards the coast to collect our final samples there and install a new site as well. The plan was straightforward. 3 days, 3 locations, 1 day driving up and 1 day driving back, staying in tents, be light, fast and autonomous. We would drive to a location 150 km away from the station were we set up a central camp and work on the samples, each day departing from the camp with the Hilux. Going to the coast meant we were to pass the fearsome sastrugi fields (rough icy terrain) we encountered on the Romnoes trip again. (Small disclaimer; due to abnormal snow accumulation past winter, the terrain really is much rougher than normal.) Luckily for us, Jean-Louis and his team of glaciologists were also planning to stay at a central base camp near the coast for a few days since they wanted to go to the drilling site of last year before starting with the ice coring on a new location. As they have living and storage containers, which have to be dragged to the site on sledges using two Prinoth tractors, the convoy will clear the road for us. Big downside; the Prinoths average around 10 kph, thus the trip took us 16 hours including the refueling stop. Furthermore, due to the bad weather and the ice desert around us the only thing to see was the back of the container in front of us. It was a long day.

On the upside, it did give Manu more than enough time to brief us on the conditions, how to stay warm, how to use your tent (yes, you can use a tent in a wrong way), sleeping bag, food rations and so on. Arriving on the location we encountered some of the best coastal Antarctic weather you will find; heavy winds and almost white out. Challenging conditions to set up a tent, but eventually with some helping hands here and there everyone got his/hers erected and quickly went to sleep. At first, I thought I would never be able to sleep in the tent as the wind makes the tent’s sails move as if someone is physically shaking the tent, but it proved no problem. In fact, I had great nights and learned to sleep everywhere in Antarctica.

The next day the troublesome weather made place for a stunning bright sunshine and a slight sea breeze, perfect! In the morning, we helped Jean-Louis settle and organize a bit after which we departed to the site where they drilled ice cores last year. The glaciologists remained there as we drove on to our most northern (at that moment) sample site. After having had some “technical” issues on which I cannot elaborate but it involves removing the backseat of the car with very little tools (oops) and a little detour, we arrived at our familiar three-pole set-up. It is a stunning location! 15 km from the coastline, with the nice weather, we had a clear view on the ocean and the icebergs. Amazing! Filter exchange again went without issues but the drive and technical problems cost us a lot of time, in the end we made it back to basecamp around midnight.

Next day we scheduled to go for Breid Bay, were we will install our samplers only 2 km from the sea ice. Taking into account the previous troubles, we prepared the Hilux early and departed at 9 am. It was an easy drive and Alain picked us a perfect spot. The weather was even better than the day before! Antarctica at its best! We took plenty of time to install the three poles and spent some more near the location for lunch and to enjoy the surroundings. Coming back early to the base camp also meant we had the kitchen container for ourselves so, take things easy, relax and make a short call home on satellite phone.

Saturday was a special one! The last day of field operations on Antarctica for us. It proved to be a challenge as we had to find the last location in a total whiteout with visibility less than 5 meters. The GPS coordinates however, were perfect! No trouble finding the station and with all the experience we build up last weeks, no problems to efficiently service it in high winds. Our work is done here! And it is a perfect 7/7 as we found back every sample and did everything which was in our program.

There was a lot of euphoria but also some sadness because this incredible experience is about to end very soon. As we will be flying back to Cape Town on Tuesday, only Monday was left to finish some final stuff in the measurement shelter at the station and to prepare samples and hardware for shipment back. It was a busy and emotional final day but it was finished in the best way possible; A reverse wind scoop. The little tour around the neighboring mountain proved to be more challenging in the reverse direction and Daniel let us play around a bit on the big ice blocks and slopes. Under the low standing sun, it certainly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Then Tuesday, after a lot of hugs, farewells and saying goodbye to everyone and the station which has been our home for more than a month, it was time to go. A bright red Twin Otter took 5 of us back to Novo Airbase where we immediately boarded the luxury Boeing were I’m sitting in right now. Thank you so much to everyone in the station, all the supporting personnel home, the university and Belspo to make such an amazing field trip possible. I come back with so many unforgettable moments and laughs! An extra big thank you to Manu and Henri with whom we worked very hard to achieve all our objectives here! It has been a pleasure and an experience never to forget. Finally thank you for reading the blogs, I hope you enjoyed them all. See you!

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Bumpy blue ice


BLOG 6 10/12/18

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, but it is because of the simple reason that not a lot happened last week. Tuesday a new group of scientists, glaciologist, was supposed to arrive and we were , also supposed, to go to Romnoes again. The game breaker was the Antarctic weather! It has been limiting our moves the whole third week here and sometimes even locking us up inside. During this week the most exciting thing was an infection of the water supply on Monday. The water we drink is actually just melted snow so an infection of the centralized system would cause severe troubles. Luckily, when the water engineer detected the bacteria the colonization was still in an early state and they were able to kill the bacteria with a hypochlorite treatment. The infection did cause some rumble amongst the people here as they were informed not to use water that evening. The next day I could let out my inner scientist, Aymar asked me to quantify the remaining free chlorine and we put the bacteria under the microscope to let everyone have a view as a sort of information campaign.

Tuesday, the news arrived that the plane carrying besides the scientists also a lot of food and parts was not going to arrive before Friday. But we were not complaining, the guys who should have been arriving that day must feel terrible with the 3 day delay and furthermore they are stuck in Novo Air Base. Not the most exciting place on the planet. With the high winds outside the choice in things to do is limited. Fitness, watching movies and helping in the kitchen gets boring rather fast so, I offered my services to Mathieu, the chief carpenter. I could help with the isolation of the garage, putting up a vapor screen and finishing the walls with OSB. Mathieu and the guys were very happy with the helping hand and so was I, feeling useful again.

Benoit and I made it our specialty to launch weather balloons in the high winds (50-60kph constant). It is impressive, barely being able to see the station from the launch site 200m away because of the amount of snow in the air and the need to have the balloon firmly between two arms while the other fills it in order to prevent the wind from tugging it away prematurely. Friday, the weather finally got better and it enabled us to check upon all the instruments that were exposed to the storm. It definitely gave us a lot of confidence to find everything in perfect working shape; they should all be able to get to the end of the season before they are brought inside again for the winter. The sunny weather should also allow planes to take off and land again right? Again bad luck for the glaciologist team, a medical evacuation on the Japanese station occupied all logistic services the whole day. Finally the next day, Saturday, the plane arrived and I went with a small team to welcome and unload the DC-3 plane. In the afternoon Manu and I went out in the field to re-flag the route to Teltet. It’s been some years since this was done and most flags disappeared so Alain asked us to put new ones. Every 200m to the mountain, we put a bright red flag indicating the safe route to follow.

On recreation day, Sunday, we immediately got to use our new route since Aymar and I went again to Teltet, this time by skidoo bringing ski’s and a snowboard. The wind of the last week has an advantage; it deposits a fresh layer of snow on the mountain slope. Perfect conditions for some winter sports. It is an incredible feeling to go down, drawing long curvy lines on the powdery slope. Snowboarding in Antarctica; with incredible views over the mountains, we both took some time to just sit in silence and let it sink in! The only downside is that there is no elevator so the only way to go up is to climb, but it is most definitely worth it!

Monday we would finally have another go to try to get to Romnoes to exchange filters. At 10 am we departed, a team of three consisting of Manu, Stefania and me on skidoo’s. The road was, like last time, rough. Consisting of deep icy holes and ridges it was difficult to maintain speed. The bumps also caused issues with the sledge and the cargo to loosen. We were really pushing the skidoo’s, trying to go fast enough to fly over the little bumps but no too fast to anticipate the big ones. After four hours we finally surpassed the point where we had to return the previous time, it already felt like a victory to me. The last 10 km another obstacle came up. Bumpy blue ice. It is beautiful but the skidoo’s have very little grip on this hard ice. It may sound like good times to do some small drifts but the fun quickly ends when the track catches a bump and nearly tips the skidoo. Again, it forced us to go slow and steady but that way we finally arrived at the site. Weather was as good as it gets and because of this we could go very easy and clean on the exchange. Following our tracks with 2 Prinoth snow tractors, a lot of trailers and a Case tractor was Alain and his machine operators. They were going to Perseus 10 km south of where we were to clear a blue ice runway for an Ilushin plane to land. Of course, we stopped on our way back to say hello, drink a coffee and thank them for creating a highway back to the station. The tracks of the big machines broke the tough ice and filled the holes creating a perfect surface for the scooters to go back to the station. Averaging 40 kph everyone in the station was surprised to see us pop up before supper started. Wednesday the final big field trip is planned, we will set up camp near the coast, 130 km away from the station and stay there for 3 days. In that time we will service the two stations there and set one new one up at breid bay right on the edge of the ice shelf.

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The Plateau


BLOG 5 02/12/2018

Tuesday we were a bit hungover from the failed expedition of the day before. Since there was no chance of going out in the field that day, we worked on the active sampling installations. We decided to run a test for a few days first to see if everything operates as it should. A few days ago I discovered the ambient temperature sensor on one of the instrument was broken, it’s not strictly necessary in order to sample but we need the pressure and temperature data to calculate accurate concentrations. Since I had some spare time on my hands the sensor was disassembled from the machine and I took it to the electrical ‘shop to figure out what was causing the trouble. The broken part was quickly identified and the colleagues in Ghent managed to order it and dropped it off with a scientist arriving at the station next week Tuesday. It’s not exactly next day delivery but still, not too bad for one of the most remote regions on earth.

Wednesday we had a quick meeting with Alain; we would try to reach the plateau again on Thursday but first we had to adjust the poles a little bit since he thought it’s better to drill them 1 meter into the ice and have the wooden board, which keeps them from sinking, closer to the ice surface. Again, all cases where filled with all the bottles we need for the exchange and installation. There are a lot! Empty ones, clean filters, backups, and that is just sampling material. We also needed to bring screwdrivers, shovels, chainsaws; we checked everything multiple times as we can’t risk forgetting anything or having the expedition aborted by a broken part. Check, double check, and check again. The next day the quick breakfast was followed by preparing lunch for the day, loading the Hilux and departure! We departed early, it is only a 55km drive (:-) .... from webmaster) but the Hilux averages around 15kph, not exactly highway speeds, because of the rubber tracks and the rough terrain. However, it is much more comfortable than a skidoo since you’re warm, protected from the wind and it’s possible to have a conversation. We even managed to take a small nap! The first hours passed quite fast and we arrived at the first site where we would replace the filters. However the poles where not there! Apparently, we made a slight navigational mistake (oops!) which was corrected quickly after which we got the three poles in our sights! Conditions are very different here compared to the valley next to the station! The katabatic wind is constant and ice is deposited immediately on everything staying still for more than a minute, including ourselves! It are difficult conditions to do fieldwork but with the aid of Henri and Manu and some perseverance, we were able to finish everything in around one hour. On to the next one, 20 km further up into the plateau, we would install a new station at an altitude of almost 2400m. Everybody warned us about the conditions there and they were right. Blazing winds combined with -25°C hit you in the face like a hammer the moment you open the door. Completely covered with balaclava, ski goggles and our thickest jackets we went to work! Manu and Henry started drilling while I mounted the sample holders to the poles and Stefania did the snow sampling. Installing the poles into their holes went quite easy thanks to the preparation. Despite the hard work and the body generating enough heat, I did manage to get some cold burn on my cheeks while working face first in the wind to secure all material in place. After taking some quick pictures, we were all very happy to be back in the Hilux, success! Time for celebration tea!

12 hours after departing, we were welcomed back by the station beautifully reflecting the low sun and Christine, the cook, who had kept 4 plates with fish and rice aside for us! Not the average day at the office, thanks to everyone involved! Friday and Saturday where quite calm. As there were some works happening to our measurement shelter we couldn’t run any active sampling. Instead, we took the time to wrestle ourselves through the enormous amount of instruments Alexander from the KMI/RMI has installed here. Some needed complete reinstallation, some calibration and some just a ‘gentle tap’ to get them going again. Also we saw some other people than the 24 currently living in the station as a plane arrived with some supplies. It was a Twin Otter this time and it’s always nice to go and see the plane takeoff up close. In the afternoon of Saturday, 2 weeks in already, we did the final fine-tuning and started with the active sampling. The high volume sampler will run for one week continuously taking into account the wind direction and speed, and will collect around 2000m3 of air. For our weekly recreational activity on Sunday, Aymar, the water engineer, and I went out on Nordic ski’s to do a 16km tour to Teltet, a mountain nearby, and back. It was a nice relief after a busy week to just ski with nothing on the mind, under a bright sun and a slight breeze. For sure, one shouldn’t underestimate the intensity of this sport, the French fries for diner where more than welcome! We are ready for week 3 on the Antarctic.

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Antarctic wheather


BLOG 4 26/11/2018

The good weather had to end at some point, so guess what happened Friday. High wind speeds combined with blown up ice made it difficult to work outside. We did find a little window between the blazing winds to go outside and install the automatic weather station of Utrecht University we put on the roof earlier to connect with its satellite. Installation was easy thanks to the straightforward design and easy-to-read guide included. If only every scientific instrument was that easy to handle, congrats to the developers. Data is available on so if you are interested in the weather we are experiencing you can check it out.

While Stefania was working on one of Alexanders (KMI) instruments, I was in a place where I feel very at home; the workshop. To optimize the sampling of dust particles for isotope analysis (one of Stefania’s topics) the inlet system of the pump put in place last year had to be improved. In the preparation, we decided we were going to use one of the passive sampling devices and turn it active. However, with no details on the already installed connections the modification was impracticable to do in advance so we took the risk to do it in the station’s ‘shop. At the end of the day and with the help of Pierre, the chief mechanics, we had a sampling head to be proud of! During diner I met a familiar face, Bryce, who gave me a lesson in how to use GIS for Antarctica some months ago, suddenly turned up at the station. With a team of four they are looking for the oldest ice in Antarctica and their plane had to make a refueling stop.

Saturday the weather continued on the same trend. We were warned by Henri to stay inside as whiteouts may occur. Even trips to our measurement shelter were to be registered. So the only option I had was to do some more work in the workshop (poor me). This time we prepared all the new poles and plates on which we will mount the samplers at the new passive sampling sites and dry fitted everything. We got notice Monday we may leave for the plateau to do the two sampling sites there so everything should be ready to go. Boxes and bottles were prepared and made ready to fit on the vehicle taking us there. A heavily modified Toyota Hilux truck with rubber tracks instead of wheels.

But first, the next day; some relaxing. With a small group including our field guide Manu and the Doc we did a skidoo tour to Dry Valley, around 45 minutes. The route on the ice plane between two mountain ridges was beautiful. Towards the end of the tour, the wind picked up and there was no fun in continuing the tour. We turned off the route and drove up to a smaller but steeper glacier bringing us up to 2200m altitude where it got too steep for the skidoo’s so we walked to the ridge on foot. Views were, again, breathtaking and the remains of the bad weather of the last days added a slight amount of drama to the mountain peaks.

Monday Stefania and I woke up early and excited, today were going to the plateau. Then, minutes before departure, we got a phone call from Alain, there is a storm on the plateau and we can’t go. I went to vent the frustrations on the roof of the garage where a pile of snow had accumulated because of last week’s weather. Shoveling it off together with a few guys proved an ideal way to turn the bad energy into something good! And good news followed. We would take the preparations we made for the Plateau and hop on the snow scooter for a trip to Romnoes (70km) where another one of the already installed sampling stations is located. The schedule was to drive 2.5 hours but the rough terrain made it very difficult to maintain speed. After 3.5 hours of driving, we were still 10km from the site and facing almost impossible terrain to cross. Furthermore, the weather started to become threatening with wind speed picking up. Manu had to make a call, which was to return on our trace and drive back to the station. The disappointment was enormous but in the end, safety is more important and Stefania and I both agreed with the decision. But we will get you next time Romnoes!

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