Settling in at Utsteinen

Alain Hubert opening the Princess Elisabeth Station

Alain Hubert opening the Princess Elisabeth Station

© International Polar Foundation

The beginning of the season has been warm, and happily enough,accompanied by fantastic weather like we had two years ago (and thankfully not like last year).

That said, all this good weather was fortunate given the amount of work to do. As you can see from the pictures, with the huge piles of wind-hardened snow, we had touse a chainsaw to cut through them.

As soon as we arrived on November 12th at 3:00 pm, we began clearing the snow away form the garage door to take out the first tractor, which had already been serviced by our mechanics Jesko and Kristoff, who have become Utsteinen regulars by now. Before 11:00 pm, René and Pierre had prepared the landing strip to make sure it was as smooth as could be for our visitors. We could rest assured that everything would be fine. The pilot's astonishment at how smooth the landing strip was when he landed the following day made us fully realize the frantic pace of that first half-day.

Since we've been here, we've already spent 280 hours clearing away the snow with bulldozers, with five men averaging some ten hours a day over six days.

A strong team of Japanese researchers, lead by Tushiya Noriyoshi (professor at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies in Tohoku) has arrived in several Twin Otter shifts on November 13th, the day after we had arrived. Upon arrival, they set up an impressive base camp of 13 tents on the immense platform we have cleared for them in front of the station.

They intend to sue the base camp the entire Antarctic season, and then go with various teams on various field trips. For the moment, their team consists of three geomorphologists and five geologists accompanied by a mechanic and two guides. One of the guides is Abe Mikio, who's already been to the base three times before. An experienced 56 year-old guide and a regular in JARE expeditions, Abe will definitely be a great asset to the group of Japanese scientists.

We shared our meals with them for two days . It's a wonderful atmosphere with gifts being exchanged. The season will be warm. We're now waiting for two more planes to arrive with material for their expedition! The Japanese are accompanied by a South-African scientist and will be joined by Belgian geochemist Steven Goderis from the Vrij Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in December.

The technical work has started as well. We've been examining the material and the installations we left behind during the austral winter. The analyses are being pursued to prepare the following installations and start the tests, which will last throughout the season. We're also setting up a light base camp again, although our offices have been installed inside the station, just like we are at the moment.

I'm now finishing up this news, and it's already past midnight. A good part of the team is watching a DVD on the plasma TV...they're enjoying a little comfort before having to move downstairs in a few days.

The sun, which usually disappears behind the mountains around 9:30 am, is reappearing at the moment, I can see the wind turbines spinning, and the petrels have returned to breed at Utsteinen. Just like every spring, life is slowly returning to Utsteinen.

Alain Hubert

For more news, pictures and videos about the present BELARE season, please visit the station's website at:

Links to related documents, teaching dossiers and picture galleries can be found at the bottom this webpage.

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