First Days of Teacher Koen Meirlaen in Antarctica

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

© IPF - Koen Meirlaen

Koen Meirlaen, a geography teacher at the Leiepoort Sint-Hendrik School in Deinze, has just arrived at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station!

The journey

After having drawn a lot of attention from the press, Koen left form Zaventem Airport on 15 December for Cape Town, where he spent a few days. His departure for the Russian Novolazarevskaya base was delayed due to a violent storm. On 23 December, Koen took his first steps in Antarctica and described his experience as “a marvelous and very special experience. The thermal shock was enormous. The cold stung my hands, feet and nose. It certainly felt like we were on the coldest continent on the planet.”

Arrival at the Princess Elisabeth Station

After another flight leaving from the Russian base Koen was able to reach his final destination: the Princess Elisabeth Station – just in time to celebrate Christmas in Antarctica! Koen arrived at the station at the same time as a team of German scientists from the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe - BGR), who will do geophysical research in the Sør Rondane mountains. However the German team had to postpone their research, given that the Mary Arctica, the ship bringing the helicopters they need to get, was blocked 130 km off the coast for several days. The Mary Arctica finally arrived at Crown Bay on 5 January, and Koen left this morning with other members of the station team to help offload equipment from the ship.

Meanwhile in Brussels…

To keep you up to date with Koen’s adventures at the station, an article and a photo gallery will be posted every two weeks during his stay in Antarctica.  We are also organizing teacher workshops (one on 25 January for the Flemish Community and one on 1 February for the French-Speaking Community) in the Class Zero Emission space at the headquarters of the International Polar Foundation (IPF) in Brussels. During the workshops, teachers will be able to chat with Koen and ask him questions via Skype video conference.

For more information:

  • Daily life at the Princess Elisabeth Station and scientific research going on there:
  • Koen Meirlaen’s expedition and his educational AHA! project  he’s working on with his students:

IPF educational materials related to the Princess Elisabeth Station:

About the Polar Quest contest and the AHA! project:

It all began during last school year (2010-2011) with the IPF’s educational Polar Quest project, supported by the action plan of the Flemish Government, “Wetenschap maakt knap” (Science Makes You Smart), in which Koen and his class participated. Working with hi students taking the Latin-sciences option who were in 5th grade of secondary school at the time, Koen Meirlaen made a film and devised an educational project called AHA! (Action – Holistic – Action), which he defended in front of the Polar Quest jury. The goal of the project is to raise as much awareness as possible about climate change and the challenges ahead.

Koen having won the contest, the teacher will spend two months at the Princess Elisabeth station in order to conduct scientific research, go out in the field, and interview scientists. Besides keeping a blog, he’ll also develop educational materials. A teacher at heart, Koen will stay in touch with his students, who will be involved in the scientific research he’s doing through the AHA! project.

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