BELARE 2006/2007 - A 3 days expedition to the NIPR depot (part 2)

On the 31st of Januray we learned that it was Philippe's 40th birthday ! The morning quickly passed fixing the vehicles onto the Lehmann sledges, moving the fuel onto the NIPR sledges, and preparing the fuel that we had to drop at the Bratnipene depot for the Japanese traverse of the next season, as instructed by Prof. Kazuyuki Shiraishi of the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR). We dug out the sledges as Frank and Phil worked on the heavy machinery, and then the fuel drum transfer was made. It was only about 4 in the afternoon that the first Prinoth was ready to leave with its cargo on the two Lehmanns. They set off at about 9 km/h for the 6 hour journey back to Camp.

We waited another hour finalising our loads, and then took to the road. I drove, while Alain took the skidoo, so that he could continuously verify the condition of the load. The wind had let up around mid afternoon, but soon began to pick up again. The sastrugis were ferocious and we had to continuously stop to re-strap the fuel drums, because the smaller wooden sledges we were using were not equipped with shock absorbers.

As we approached the depot site five hours later, the sun was sliding behind the mountains and the cold was suddenly more intense. Bratnippane, was a drear sight, full of dark foreboding shadows. We had to cautiously make our way down into a blue ice dish, where the sledges had a field day, sliding all over the place under their own weight as we progressed downhill.

One of the fuel drums sprung a leak and we patched it up as best we could and turned it over, all 200 kgs of it, using the small crane, so that it would stop. Once in place, at the GPS point indicated, we discovered that there was next to no snow. This was not very encouraging. I was all for moving on as I had no wish to sleep on the blue ice which in addition to being very cold and hard, is also very knobbly. Finally, Alain discovered a tent size patch of snow, and began to set up the tent with Benjamin, while I made dinner in the Prinoth survival cabin. I was eager to try out the luxuries of this small box, and after dinner declared I would sleep there, though without the heating as a concession for my decadent weakness. Needless to say, the wind did not keep me awake.