Nov. 30 2018: The Freezing Traverse to the Plateau

After being on the Antarctic Plateau, I promise I won’t complain about cold anymore.

9 AM UTC Time, the Hilux fully loaded with the necessary stuff and not 3, but 4 Musketeers ready for the next adventure!  65 km to our final destination. On a regular route you will probably cover this distance in less than an hour. In Antarctica, 4 hrs. We can’t go more than 15 Km/Hr. Skidoos are faster, but we are not warm, we can’t talk, and for sure they are not that comfy.  So, well the “slow motion” is worthy then.  Around 1:30 pm we reached the first sampling site. -18C.  Cold, of course, but not bad.  With the help of Henri and Manu, we get to work.  We can’t spend too much time here because we still have a new sampling site to go to. It’s only 16 Km away from this one, which means ~1 Hr driving if we are lucky and the terrain is in good condition.

After almost 2 hours, we’re done here, and we begin our trip to the next point: The Deep Plateau.  The landscape is just incredible, and the more we drive the more I notice and feel the difference.  Katabatic winds blowing harder, temperature decreasing pretty fast to ~-23°C and voila! here we are, in the middle of nowhere. To the side, you turn your head and look at the most beautiful flat, white and bright 360 panorama you can ever imagine.

Before getting out of the car, two very important things. Number one: organization of all the tasks to do. Each of us is responsible for doing something different.  That way we can achieve the goal efficiently but quickly due to the low temperatures.  Number two: (but this one is just for me) to be ready with the “ultraclean outfit” in order to minimize the contamination of the samples as much as possible.  Being aware of the chilly temperature, hand warmers are in between my two gloves, but I was not prepared to be blasted by the wind!  In a matter of seconds my vinyl gloves were completely frozen and, with that, my fingers as well; the -23°C feels like -30°C! So, I ran to the Hilux to take the gloves out and replace them with regular plastic gloves. I am sorry for science in this point. But if I lose my fingers now I won’t be able to complete my mission in Antarctica and so far, we only have 3 out of 7 sites done! Safety first.

While I’m sampling snow, my folks are installing the three new poles we need at this new site.  Two for the organic compounds and one for the inorganic materials.  We all finished almost at the same time.  So, either I took a long time for the sampling or they did their job very fast.  6:30 PM and we’re finally done, high fives for the 4 of us.  Nice freezing job!  But the satisfaction of seeing our samplers set up is a great feeling.  It’s not easy to work in extreme conditions but always possible when even the small details were triple-checked before going.  After another 4 ½ hours we’re back home.  Princess Elisabeth station is so quiet because it’s almost midnight and the whole crew, except us, is asleep. Christine has left 4 plates ready with dinner for us on the counter in the kitchen.  That was so nice of her.

And that is how our traverse ended.  Full tummies, happy hearts!  Goodnight everybody. 😉

Until the next blog.


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