BELARE 2004 : Antarctic site survey team on the way to Sor Rondane Mountains

The IPF will participate in the building of a new Antarctic summer station in the foothills of the Sor Rondane Mountains, where Belgium has a historical presence, with the previous base, the Roi Baudouin. On February 6th 2004, the Belgian Council of Ministers confided to Alain Hubert (IPF) the planning, conception and financing of the project.

Here are some news from the team in charge of locate the best site for the base.

On the morning of the 20th of November we arrived in Cape Town. The Belgian Antarctic Research Expedition (BELARE) 2004 site survey team is made up of the following members: Alain Hubert, Johan Berte and Gigi Johnson-Amin of the International Polar Foundation, Maaike Vancauwenbergh of the BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy Office), Frank Pattyn of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Luc Deleuze of Art & Build, Kazuyuki Shiraishi, and Kenji Ishizawa of the NIPR (Tokyo), and Shigeo Shigata of Komatsu.

Since our arrival it has been extremely hectic as we try to find all the provisions necessary to feed the expedition members during our stay in Antarctica. We had a few scares when we couldn't locate the fuel for the MSR stoves, but all that has now been resolved.

However, the weather at Novolazarevskaia has deteriorated and so ALCI delayed the Ilyushin flight to Novo for twenty four hours. We have also had to re-programme the logistics, as the Basler has not arrived at Novo and so all our Antarctic flights will be on the Antonov 2 belonging to ALCI (http://www.alci.info/).

We will be able to take both our skidoos on the Antonov 2 in two flights, and will be deposited at the Teltet Nunatak in the Sor Rondane Mountains, to the West of the Gunnastadtbreen glacier. The plane will then go on to deposit Kenji and Shigeo at Asuka, where they will try to recover the vehicles left at Seal Nunatak. The rest of the group will visit several potential sites, accompanied by Shiraishi San, who has extensive experience on expeditions in that area, with the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition.

Once the site is located, we will shift camp and begin the topographic survey, install the automatic weather station, and carry out sampling for the initial environmental evaluation. We will try to keep you updated with the Iridium satellite phones, and in any case we are in daily contact with the Novo base. Meanwhile, as we wait to leave, we are keeping busy with last minute organisation, checking and rechecking, materials, procedures and so forth.

Today we went to the Cape of Good Hope, as close to the Antarctic as it is possible to get in Africa. We are almost 9500 km from Brussels, and 5500km from our eventual basecamp. Tomorrow night at Novo?? Vasily, Alexey and Bernard of ALCI assure us that this outcome is 95% probable. All the best The BELARE 2004 team.

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