December 10 – 15, 2018: The Last Traverse.

5 Days, 490 Km travelled with the Hilux, 3 sampling sites visited, and our mission has finished.. Happiness of all we have done and achieved in this short stay in Antarctica but a bitter flavor at the same time.

Day 1 -December 10: 15 hrs trip travelling in Caravan to the waypoint where we will settle the camp shared with the glaciologist group from Belgium. Yes, it was a very exhausting, long and a very very slow drive (9km/h). But as you can see on the pictures: we were taking a lot of equipment. We arrived at destination 1:00 AM in the morning, all thrilled, sleepy and hungry. So, in less than 15 minutes the field guides settled up 8 tents to sleep in groups of 2. Usually you will have your own tent, but the tiredness is so much that for the moment nobody complains. We all just need some rest. By the time we went to bed it was already pass 2 AM and the alarm for the next morning is in 5 hrs.

Day 2 – December 11: After only 5 hrs of sleep, the faces in the Kabobs Kitchen are not the friendliest ones. 😉 but we managed to have a nice breakfast. We are so many that we even need to take turns to eat or whatever we want to do in the kitchen. So, to keep everybody happy, organization is the key in here. The plan for us is to reach our next sampling site: ~35Km in the coast direction. With the Hilux, this might take up to 4 hrs. After a couple of technical issues with the Toyota and more than 6 hrs since we left camp, we can see from the distance 3 bright little things, the dust collectors, shinning like diamonds in the sky! The landscape around is just breath-taking. We can see the ocean from here! The mix of colors is beautiful; the clear blue of the sky hidden in the white clouds, the dark blue of the ocean with the icebergs floating in the distance and the ultra-bright white snow is just incredible.

One more day has passed. We are back to camp. It is late, almost midnight. Everybody is asleep. Silent is the owner of this place. The only thing you can hear is the wind blowing against the tents. Off to bed I am!

Day 3 – December 12: Waypoints already in the GPS, it is time to go. This is the furthest place (sampling site) we will go. We have a long day ahead us.

This is another new place where we have to set up our dust sampling systems. With this new site, we now have a total of 7 sampling points across a 230 Km transect. Congratulations for us! Record on time. In less than 3 hrs we have finished, and we are ready to make our way back to camp. No rush, it is still early so if we can make it by dinner, we are all happy.

Day 4 – December 13: Last sampling station to visit and we are done! It’s only 15 Km away from the base camp. A piece of cake! Except the visibility is 0. Driving blind in a white out in Antarctica is not easy. Not fun either, so you better stick your eyeballs to the window and try to find the old tracks in the terrain to make this final traverse enjoyable. Good luck with that and an extra beer tonight for the first who is able to see it! And don’t forget to hold you tight or scream loudly “depression up front!” if you don’t want your head to be smash in the roof of the Hilux.

Now the tricky part. How we will be able to see the poles? Usually we always stop 300 m before the waypoint to avoid contamination but in the middle of the white out that is definitively a challenge. But we are team and as in any other, we have a goal, so splitting tasks to maximize our search. We decided, one will focus the view on the front. Other to the left and the other one to the right. After an intensive search, Bingo! They there are! 🙂 Wind is blowing hard, so let’s hurry before our fingers freeze.

Back in base, soup and a half-frozen sandwich for this late lunch is what we have. And not relax or get comfy too much because we still need to organize and load the truck for the 10 hrs. return trip to the station tomorrow.

Day 5 – December 14: 6 AM in the morning alarm off! get up get up, we gotta go! Last breakfast with some of the glaciologists who are already up. Next thing to do, undo the tents. Well in reality the first thing is to dig out the tent from the huge snow pack accumulated during the night with the wind. After 3hrs of work and preparation and wrapping the Zarges boxes with all the equipment on the Hilux, now is official… we are leaving … I don’t like to say goodbye, but we leave the glaciologist camp very thankful to everybody! All the best for the rest of your mission folks! 8 hrs later and a very bumpy and bouncy trip, we are home again! And the welcome for us is with pizza and beers. Thank you to the ones we prepared this delicious meal from scratch!

And if you want to know the end of this wonderful adventure, read the next blog in a few days…

Stefania Gili.

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