BELARE 2006/2007 - Flights in and flights out

The brilliant sunshine on Utsteinen today sent our thermometer soaring to 18°C, boys and girls. We were as amazed as you. The day began with the confirmation from Brian that the Basler flight would take place as had been foreseen for the 15th. The runway team (Jos, Dieter and Damien) heads off to clean up the black bags lining the runway while we tidy up camp and send a few e-mails. We take the opportunity to test the Garmin Rhino radios with silly banter - "Over and out, Roger". Around two in the afternoon, we hear the drone of an aircraft and in no time the Basler is circling the camp.

Brian touches down the plane in an elegant curve which throws up a plume of soft snow, and then taxis up to our tents, stopping short of demolishing our neat little camp. The doors open and Philippe Herman leaps out larger than life, rapidly followed by Dieter and Vaska. Behind them are a group of Japanese dignitaries accompanied by the head of Syowa station. Amongst this group is a Japanese astronaut, and a famous novelist.

We offer our visitors tea in the sunshine, and we talk about the ITASE traverse which will pass through our station site next season. They admire our nunatak, and the surrounding circle of mountain peaks.

The tea party is too soon over and with warm handshakes and big hugs from Philippe, they clamber aboard the Basler and are soon flying west to Troll.

Philippe has to catch his flight from cape Town on the 18th and unless the Orion flies soon, he will have missed it. He lookes torn between staying with us and going home. But the soldiers have been away since November in the Ivan Papaninn and it is time to end the adventure.

Dieter and Vaska give us a complete report on the events of the past few days and the situation at the coast. They are a little shaken, having been through situations on the moving ice that they could never have imagined when they signed up for the Belgian army. Despite their difficult moments, the Antarctic bug seems to have well and truly bitten.

We listen to the stories with bated breath. Here at Utsteinen, the pace of life is so different, and the only injuries are small cuts and the only risks are bruises from slipping on the blue ice by the Nunatak.

The coast party has once again changed plans as the Captain of the ship agrees to give the unloading one last chance. Alain collects a team of crew men from the Ivan Papaninn and they make mooring points on the ice cliffs to which the ship will be attached. Despite the good news, we don't dare to hope. Everything in this land is governed by the rapidly changing conditions. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

Dinner is a feast of chicken and pasta, which Vincent and Dieter 1 (the camera man) put together for us. We were in great fear that if no meat were forthcoming from the flight, we would be forced to eat the dried fish that the Norwegians had offered us and which lay soaking, bathed in a rich odour of putrefaction, in the pressure cooker that Jos has requisitioned for this purpose.

Night falls as usual when the sun slips behind Utsteinen and the temperature suddenly drops with dizzying speed to -15°C. We head off for our beds on the lumpy ice, and shudder in our little tents, desperately longing for the first warms fingers of sunlight on our tents.