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

Everything looked much better on the first of February. The sun was back, and the mountains looked fresh and inviting in the cold, clear, air. The morning passed quickly, unloading some drums onto the rock, so they wouldn't sink into the ice, and moving the sledge into an equally good position. Then we took pictures of the depot to send to Tokyo, and packed up camp to drive back to Utsteinen via Dalton's Nunatak (which actually looks like a seal's head) and the North tip of Smalegga, (Dragons Tail), where the Belgian's had a summer camp decades ago. Leaving the blue ice was not much joy either, as it was riven with all kinds of cracks and dents, sand cracks, temperature cracks, honest to goodness crevasses.

However, we progressed without incident and Alain even found a patch of blue ice which might be long enough to take a landing strip for a C-130. As Benjamin was on the skidoo, and wanted to leave the blue ice for the sake of prudence, he asked to go on ahead. We agreed to catch up with him further along the route, where he would wait for us on the snow. Somehow, we missed him and reached as far as Dalton's nunatak, without crossing his tracks. Worried by this turn of events, and as he had no radio on him, we left the sledge at the nunatak and headed back toward the blue ice, with dread. Happily, he realised what had happened and had found our rather large tracks and had come after us and we were soon on the road together again. The day was crisp and sunny, and the light perfect for pictures.

After snapping away at a particularly attractive wind scoop, we finally made our way to Smalegga, and had some hot tea with crackers and cheese to stave off the hunger. I'm more of a dried apricots and biltong snacker, but we seem to have run out of these.

After Benjamin had had his moment alone with the deserted landscape, the deserted campite on a rocky outcrop in the vast deserted emptiness, with Utsteinen visible in the far distance, we set to work to excavate the boxes of the summer camp's depot. There were some surprising luxuries (foie gras and rum) among the more usual provisions from 50 years ago (yep, biscuits and cheese). We even found full cans of coca cola, and Heineken.

Boxes came reluctantly out of the ice, and before long there were quite a few interesting discoveries to take back to Brussels. We were so engrossed that we didn't notice the time pass, and finally had to put an end to our digging, to load up the sledge and head back to Camp, half frozen but content.

The sastrugis gave way to the calmer terrain of the outflow of the Gunnestadtbreen, and we drove at a spanking 12 kilometres per hour back the 20 km to Utsteinen glimmering in the last rays of the evening sun. Benjamin had had enough of the slow pace and the fast descending thermometer and raced off ahead, while we trundled into camp at half nine, with our treasures ready to be admired.