It was the most exciting week of my four months at Antarctica without question. We stayed in the camp of the Jonny Cash depot on the Foundation ice-stream, as far from stations as far it goes. We visited GPS sites to be maintained, which was finally an opportunity for me to show that all that time and money spent on this journey of mine by BAS was not in vain. All this in the humbling company of veteran pilots, guides and scientists and the humbling presence of the nature so strong there is no proportion to describe.
Being on the Antarctic field was my most remote experience ever: hundreds of miles away from the closest station, living in tents on man-food and visiting instruments that are revealing some of the many secrets of this mysterious continent. The flight from Rothera through Sky Blu to the Berkner island was the first of these three weeks.
As a member of the 2017 wintering team of the Halley station I was completely shocked by the news that the British Antarctic Survey BAS has decided not to winter at Halley VI Research Station for safety reasons. Being at the Brunt ice-shelf at the moment I have a view on the personal, scientific, prestige and financial loss that this decision means, and I can feel the same disappointment that the rest of our team of 16 does. So when I say ‘This is still the Antarctica.‘ it is not a sarcastic comment on a terrible news, rather a token of my appreciation to the power of this place.
This week’s highlight was definitely the opportunity to join two instrument installation day-trips to the Larsen ice-shelf. My first time to fly the mighty Twin Otter, to feel the shaky landing on a snow-field and work in the field with three experienced Antarctic ladies surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of rock, ice and snow were all memorable moments that I will always remember, but also wanted to conserve somehow outside of my mind too. Thus I’ve not only written it down to my weekly diary, but also cut a short movie of the videos I made during the trip and also created a TaleMap about it.
This moment I feel like living at Rothera. I am part of this Antarctic station’s everyday life and I’m very glad for this experience, even if it lasts only for a moment. In a few days I will say good-bye to this little village surrounded by the frozen sea and fly to Berkner island, which will be a completely different experience. I try to preserve this valuable moment by writing down what I learned about this amazing place in the last two weeks, knowing that this was just a fracture of what Rothera is.
Well, here I am, and here is everything they promised: the frozen sea, the ice-bergs, the sun shining all day, the freezing wind and the snow covered landscape, the self-sufficient buildings, the ruggedized airplanes, just as they told, just as it was on the photos, but this time I am on the picture too, between the flapping flags, between the rocks raising over the the sea-ice, under the blazing sun in the chilly wind. It wouldn’t be much different if I would just be dreaming it all.
It’s been four months since I know that I’m going to spend one and a half year at Antarctica, and for the past two months I’ve been participating in the intensive training of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) for this wintering mission. Now I’m ready. Both in my mind and heart I feel ready and eager to be there, to leave this unfrozen part of the World behind and dive into that strange universe.
As part of our preparation for the 18 month Antarctic mission, the wintering teams of Bird Island, Halley, King Edward Point and Rothera stations of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) had a week long outdoor training in Derbyshire, UK. However the sessions focused on more or less the same outdoor skills that are used by mountaineers, these were all placed in the very special context of the Antarctic environment, which made the whole training different from those I had before, and so assumed it might be interesting for you too. Please consider that this post is a story and not an advice, the descriptions are neither detailed nor accurate enough to be used as a training material.
The Antarctica was the last major unknown land of our planet. As wild and inaccessible as the most fearsome mountain peaks with double the size of Australia, Antarctica was the subject of the last heroic age of exploration just a few decades before the mankind turned its head towards the stars. The Antarctica was also the subject of an unprecedented world-wide collaboration dedicating the whole continent to scientific investigations and banning both military and mineral exploration activities. But what kind of scientific investigation needs a 14 million sq km laboratory in one of the harshest places of the Earth? Becoming one of the wintering electronic engineers of the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI station is not only the greatest adventure of my life, but also an opportunity to watch and assist some of the major scientific explorations of our age. (Check my weekly diary for more.)
I wanted to write you the story of an amazing cycling tour in the Swiss Alps that I made not long ago, but I really couldn’t focus on it after I received that mail from the British Antarctic Survey: “We would like to offer you the position of Electronics Engineer for a Halley Winter.” Okay, but who cares about me spending 18 months on that frozen continent apart from my family and girlfriend? Well, since I consider it the second best thing after going to space, it might be interesting for some others too, but I wouldn’t really write about myself, not even about Antarctica yet, there will be plenty of time. I would rather write about what lead to this. How the impossible might happen.