Thursday 12 February
Here is my second and last email from the Schirmacher Oasis. When the wind speed has decreased enough, we have started to go the glacier near the Oasis, and we continued to drill cryoconites. The glacier bordering the Oasis, where you can see a lateral view of the cryoconites
It is a kind of 'addiction': once you start drilling, you cannot stop anymore;).
In contrast to the cryoconites in the Sor Rondane Mountains, here, the ice lids were much softer and to drill them was a real pleasure. Not more than 5-10 minutes of work. Moreover, the quantity of water, sediments and biofilms was also higher here!
Then, I started to understand why Andy Hodson had advised us to drill a dozen cryoconites, at minimum. He probably was used to 'normal' cryoconites, whereas the permanently cold conditions near the Belgian base were quite extreme and resulted in cryoconite holes with a deeper ice lid and less good conditions for the microorganisms.
The size of the cryoconites in the Schirmacher Oasis is in general smaller than in the Sör Rondane Mountains. This is probably due to the different origins of the cryoconites. In the Mountains, a large fraction of the cryoconites originate from stones and boulders falling from the rocks. There is not so much dust there. In contrast, on the glacier above the Schirmacher Oasis, they can originate only from the dust transported by winds from the Oasis.
The window of good weather that was predicted by the meteorologists was relatively short and the Ilyuchin Il-76 could arrive on each of the days. We were informed that, at any moment, we could be asked to go with all our luggage to the Novo Runway. The only problem was with the feeder flights with the smaller Basslers. Contrary to the giant IL-76, the Basslers were more sensitive to high wind speeds.
Indeed, it was quite windy on the Novo Runway when we arrived there on the 11th. Our friends from the Princess Elisabeth, who had to fly back with us to Cape Town, were lucky to be in time on the Novo Runway. However, a big group of Germans from the Neumayer station could not make it. The weather on Novo was too harsh. ALCI decided to change the route. Instead of a direct flight to Cape Town, we went first to Troll station. There, we picked the German team and only after that, we left to Cape Town. We landed safely, and on the 14th, we took a flight to Frankfurt. Josef left there, to go back to the Czech Republic. I arrived in Belgium on the 15th.
The expedition is not finished until all the samples have arrived in the laboratory to be analysed, but for us, the field work is done.
After all these days in Antarctica I would like to thank the personel of the stations "Princess Elisabeth", "Novolazarevskaya", Novo Runway, "Maitri" and "Troll" for their hospitality.
Special thanks go to Alain Hubert, Gigi, Rene Robert, Alain Trullemans, Sanne Bosteels, Koen Verschraegen, Jurgen Van Obberghen, Olivier Diez, Kristof Soete, David Gladsteen, Pierre Soete, Sylvain Doucement, Johan Berte, Dominique Corbisier, Sven Kerremans, Karel Moerman, David Rigotti and Irina Gorodetskaya. Sorry if I forgot to mention somebody. It means that I didn't find your name in the list with e-mails.
Our work and life on Novolazarevskaya would be much more difficult without the help of Valery Lukin, Viktor Venderovich, Dmitry Fedorov,Mikhail Shorkin, Maxim Chistyakov, Alexander, Ivan, Yaroslav and Nadya. Our transportation would be impossible without efforts of ALCI members: Alexey Turchin, Oleg Sakharov, Vasily Kaliazin, Vladimir Kiryanov, Vladimir Baranov. Last but not least, the pilots of Basslers and IL-76, led by Ruben Esayan.
Many people in Belgium supported us before and during expedition: Maaike Vancauwenberghe (BELSPO), all members of the laboratory of Dr Annick Wilmotte, Alexander Mangold, Andy Hodson, Willy Maenhaut, Laurence Vanlede.
The work of the BELDIVA team was supported by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office. Zorigto Namsaraev is supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique - FNRS.