Belare 2021-2022 Campaign
Friday 14th of January, 2022
After almost 7 weeks, we are flying back to Belgium. On Friday, we took first the Basler DC-3 (Fig. 9-2) to Novo @PEA. In Novo, we had to wait until 4 AM to leave for Cape Town with the Il-76TD carrier (Fig. 1). Because of bad weather conditions, it took some time before our German colleagues from Neumayer station could join us. Meanwhile we were in waiting mode :-)
Around 10 AM CET, we arrived in Cape Town, arriving in the "normal" world, which means: going through some covid tests... Everybody was negative, so we could go to our hotel. The next flight with KLM to Schiphol was planned on Sunday night around 0.30 CET. Around 15 hour CET, we were back in Brussels which concludes our journey.
Hereby we would like to thank all the people that supported us on this journey: the people at the station, family, friends and our colleagues. Also IPF and BELSPO we would like to thank for their support!
Wednesday 12th of January, 2022
At the station, we also have other scientific projects, ongoing. Princess Elisabeth Station is located over 200 kilometres from the coastline where most of Antarctica’s wildlife is found – the seals, whales and ubiquitous penguins reminiscent of nature documentaries. However, despite its inland position, PES is home to some of Antarctica’s endemic wildlife. Flying seabirds, namely Wilson’s petrels and Antarctic petrels can be sighted from the station. The surrounding nunataks are home to breeding pairs of South polar skuas and active colonies of snow petrels, a distinct seabird, all-white bar their piercing black eyes, bill and legs. Alongside the Emperor penguin, the snow petrel is the most sea-ice associated of Antarctic seabirds. Snow petrels depend on the sea ice for their food and during the breeding season repeatedly make the several hundred-kilometre flight between their inland nesting grounds on the exposed rock of nunataks to the coast. Here they forage on fish, krill and squid, which they concentrate into a fat-rich nutritious oil in their upper stomachs. This nutrient-rich stomach oil acts as a food store which they bring back and feed to their fluffy grey chicks, which remain protected from the elements tucked in amongst the crevices between large boulders. Alongside chick feeding, the stomach oil has another, stickier purpose – snow petrels can forcefully regurgitate the fishy oil at marauding skuas (which prey on the adult petrels and chicks), other snow petrels during territorial disputes, and the researchers who visit their colonies in order to better study this enigmatic species.
Two such researchers taking part in the BELARE 2021-22 expedition are Eleanor Maedhbh Honan, an Irish PhD researcher from Durham University and Stephanie Prince from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK. Eleanor and Stephanie are working for the ANTSIE project, studying the behavioural ecology of the snow petrels and how climate change may affect the colonies present in the Sør Rondane Mountains. For their work they focus on pairs breeding on Utsteinen Nunatak, just 800 metres from the Princess Elisabeth Station. Here they deploy tracking devices on the petrels to better understand how the petrels use the sea ice environment, alongside collecting diet samples from the petrels. The focus of their research is the Antarctic ‘mumiyo’ deposits – large blocks of solidified snow petrel stomach oil which build up outside the petrel nests and record the occupation of the site over thousands of years. By analysing the geochemistry of these deposits, snow petrel diet can be tracked through time, and the species response to changing sea-ice conditions can be examined. The ANTSIE project represents the first project of its kind in the region, and despite the inclement weather this season has already provided some fascinating data.
Tuesday 11th of January, 2022
On Tuesday, we planned lots of things. First, Preben went back with Polo to the plateau, to do the necessary adaptations to the station.
Once, back in the station, Preben went up with Polo on the Utsteinen nunatak to install the mini-AWS (Fig. 8-1).
In the evening, we went to Teltet, to take the last snow samples (Fig. 8-2) and update the active and passive samples.
At that time, it was wind still. Summer feeling in Antarctica :-)
Monday 10th of January, 2022
After installing the OPS and the mini-AWS at the plateau, we knew that we had to go back to check the instruments. Because of bad weather, this was only possible for the first time on Monday 10th of January. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the batteries, which caused a power failure. Because of this, we had to bring back the samples to the station and come back for the OPS with some design updates. Because of an intense summerstorm at the plateu on the 1st of January, there was some snow into the tubes of the OPS, something we don't want!
The same day, we went to the high plateau to take some snow samples. We (Polo, Derrick, Simon, Preben and Andy) also took the opportunity to take out the poles on which three different sampling types were installed during the CHASE project. They are back at the base now.
Wednesday 5th of January, 2022
Today, eight persons from the station went into the field. Some will go to Perseus to close the airport. Alain will do a survey at the coast and pick up our glaciologists after 3 weeks of hard work in the field! Preben and I are preparing the last to do's before flying back.
There is a lot to do at the Princess Elisabeth base. We would therefore like to zoom in on other activities, taken place at the station. It is always very much appreciated if we can enjoy a nice meal in between work. Thomas and Christine (Fig. 6-1) take care of this with great enthusiasm and dedication, thx!
At the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica (PEA) zero-emission scientific research station, every two days a radiosonde is launched by Timothée (Fig. 6-2). This is very important information for NPW models :-)
Timothée is also responsible at the station for operating the small-scale water treatment system. This allows the purification of both black and grey waters to drinking level standards. "Grey water is processed in an aerobic membrane bioreactor while black water requires an additional digestion step in a heated anaerobic tank. The purified water is sent through an activated charcoal column before being recycled for non-drinking purposes (e.g., laundry, showers) in order to reduce the need for fresh water obtained from snow melting. The excess water is discharged to the environment.
The water treatment is a complex process that requires continuous monitoring. Process parameters obtained from a multitude of on-line sensors (e.g. pressure gauges, thermometers, pH probes, conductivity and dissolved oxygen sensors) serve as input for the automated regulation of the process. Still, manual tests performed on a daily basis in the station laboratory are necessary to get further insight in the concentration of bacteria in the bioreactor and of a series of chemical species (e.g., NH4+, NO3-) whose values should remain within a given operational range.(Fig. 6-3)"
Friday 31st of December 2021
This week we were busy installing a WS100 Radar Precipitation Sensor (Smart Disdrometer) at the station, so we can differentiate between the different types of precipitation. Our small AWS has been read out after the storm we had this week and it worked perfectly! The goal is now to also install such a small AWS at the Nuna tak mountain and at the plateau.
The OPS has been tested and declared ready for shipping towards the plateau. The weather forecast gives us a green light for this Friday, the last day of the year, although we will have low clouds (which means low visibility). Positive is that the wind speed will be low (much appreciated here). Fig. 5-1 shows what low visibility means!
Some active aerosol/gas phase atmospheric samplers were replaced/updated, together with some passive samplers. Two snow samples were also taken at the plateau. Next week we will come back to check.
Friday 24th of December
After coming back from the coast, we started to organise ourselves to prepare the next instruments. For the Optical Partical Sizer instrument, we realised that for the remote site the batteries would not be sufficient to cover potential power interruptions for the whole period January to November. We managed to progam the steering of the instrument, using a Raspberry Pi mini-pc. Together with the wind turbine, solar panel and batteries and the programming by the mini-pc, we have good hope that the OPS will measure the whole winter.
Another instrument on that list is our mini weatherstation (Fig. 4-2 ) It measures pressure, relative humidity and temperature and can work for one year in extreme weatherconditions autonomously on just one small battery! We will install three of those, the first one has been installed on the roof of the southern container. Another one will be installed on top of the Utsteinen nunatak and the third one at our remote site. Besides the local meteo data, it will give us also a permanent view of the meteo data at three different altitudes.
We managed also to calibarate the elevation angle of the MAXDOAS instrument, using a laser (Fig.4-3) on a cloudy evening. After iteration with Alexis from IASB, it seems that the instrument is working fine now.
During this week, on Thursday 23 December, new people arrived and other members of the team went home for Christmas. We also had the opportunity to pack our TEOM instrument and ship it to Belgium for repair.
Sunday 19th of December
On Friday 17th of December, the team of Frank Pattyn left for their mission on measuring ice-rise dynamics and Surface Mass Balance (SMB) in #Antarctica with @MarieCavitte, @IzeboudMaaike and Sarah Wauthy. It is a trip of about 165 km, heading to the north (coast side). During this journey, Sarah was probing every 5 km in order to obtain a transect until the coast. Preben and Timothy were assisting her, driving the car.
During our journey, unfortunately this Friday, one of the Prinoth snow groomers had a breakdown, so we needed to stop and set up our camp to sleep in our tents earlier as foreseen. Pierre and Jacques, the two drivers of the Prinoths and excellent technicians had to solve the situation on site, which they did quite fast!!
The next day, Saturday, the journey continues. Sarah continues her sampling in the direction of the coast, while at the junction we are going towards northeast to climb on the ice-rise (about 25 km of travel). Once arrived there, we setup the basecamp for the glaciologists.
On our way back, we meet again at the junction around 22.45 in the evening and we will stay there overnight. At 6 AM we continue our journey, back to the base (140 km at an average of about 10-12 km/h). At Perseus arrived around noon, it was the goal to take down the flags, but due to the weather conditions this was not possible. We knew that the last part, heading to basecamp would be difficult, since we didn’t had a good visibility and we really had to really on the GPS signal. Around 20.00 we arrived at PEA.
Wednesday 15th of December 2021
On Monday and Tuesday we were occupied by following some necessary training courses on safety within and around the station, medics, the use of a GPS, skidoo driving and how to deal with crevasses. Yesterday, Preben was the chosen victim to fall into a crevasse. Christophe (paramedic) rescued him and the crew of the Venturi team was called upon to do the evacuation. They are at the base to test their electric snowcat, which drives on batteries. Since the PES is a zero emission station, we are able to produce our own energy and this works really well! You can find more feedback here: https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium-all-news/198304/belgian-polar-station-in-antarctica-deploys-first-e-vehicle-of-its-kind?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1639836359
Meanwhile, Preben went to the Plateau to go and inspect the autonomous instruments which were installed last year. The good news that everything was still up and running! During his abscence, I was busy at the station to unmount the max-doas with Benoit, so we can try to fix the wetness issue in the instrument. Tomorrow we will try again to make it operational! The batteries of the optical particle sizer are now loading, so it can be tested tomorrow. The goal is that this instrument will be installed on the remote site somewhere next week.
It is important to train the right methods how to rescue someone who has fallen into a crevasse. In addition to the image here there is also a short video giving an impression from inside the crevasse.
Sunday, 12th of December 2021
Already Sunday, time flies when you are on Antarctica! We arrived on Friday morning around 2 AM in the Princess Elisabeth station after a trip of about 5 hours from the Perseus airstrip, which is around 60 km away from the station.
Meanwhile we have already been busy with the instruments. Yesterday we checked the Brewer spectrophotometer, to observe the total ozone column (Fig. 2-1). We could see that we are pretty close now from the ozone hole, according the the CAMS forecast (Fig. 2-2). Observations from the Brewer show that this is indeed the case.
In addition to the Brewer spectrophotometer, Preben and Andy installed also the Cimel sunphotometer on the station's roof. The sunphotometer measures the incoming radiation from the sun and calculates the extinction due to present aerosol particles in the atmospheric column. This extinction is called 'Aerosol Optical Depth' (AOD). It is a parameter widely used in global transport models for taking into account the atmospheric load of aerosol particles. The data is fit into an international database. As the instrument uses sun observations, it measures only during the austral summer. Therefore, it travels back and forth between the station and Belgium and is yearly calibrated when back in Europe.
Wednesday, 8th of December 2021
During the austral summer season 2021-2022 colleagues from the Royal Meteorological Institute and from Ghent University will be at the Princess Elisabeth station for research in the framework of the CHASE and CLIMB projects. Here, you can find a blog of Andy Delcloo (RMI, Ghent University) and Preben Van Overmeiren (Ghent University), reporting on their activities during their stay in Antarctica.
Already on the 29th of November, the team left Belgium and went into quarantine in Cape Town. Finally after COVID testing and a green light for good weather conditions to fly into Antarctica, everybody is relieved that the campaign can finally start by heading towards the Perseus airstrip. The aircraft which will bring us there is a Ilyushin 76 plane (Fig. 1). Flight is foreseen tomorrow at 2 PM LT. Flight duration is about 6 hours.