mardi 7 février 2012

Elie Verleyen is back in Antarctica!

The Ilyushin at Cape Town, waiting for us!
On Monday the 30th of January around 23.30 o’clock, we left Cape Town and headed to Novolazarevskaya (Novo for the friends); the Russian station in Dronning Maud Land which is close to the 3 km long air strip on the blue ice on which the ALCO operated Ilyushin 76 (picture) lands. We had to stay in Novo for 36 hours, because of the bad weather conditions in Utsteinen. 
On Tuesday the 31st we left at 5 o’clock in the morning with a smaller DC3 aircraft to Utsteinen. The plane is more than 70 years old but still one of best of its kind. Around 7.30 local time, we landed in Utsteinen. The weather is exceptionally nice here. We had breakfast and it was really nice to meet the old friends on the Belgian base. Afterwards we had a short briefing regarding the daily life on base and general safety. Everybody is very supportive for our research. Yesterday, I had to finalise some work which I didn’t manage to complete in Cape Town L but today field work finally started. 
All the equipment works properly; the GPS was living its own life but I was able to fix it. This afternoon I went to sample the Open Top Chambers on the ridge. These OTCs are small green houses which experimentally increase temperature inside. By doing so, we will be able to predict the effect of future temperature warming on the terrestrial organisms in this part of Antarctica. They were installed in 2010 by Josef Elster and Zorigto Namsaraev. Last year, Zorigto already sampled them (

The OTC covered by snow
We have inserted loggers that are recording the temperature and humidity (amount of water) in the OTC and outside in the control plots. These control plots are just near the OTC and are made of the same environment. The loggers are programmed to take measurements during one year. Then, their memory is full and they need to be changed. This is my job now. At the same time, I will take samples and make pictures to follow the growth of the organisms.
The first OTC was partly covered with snow (picture), while the second one was almost completely free of snow. I already downloaded the temperature and humidity data. This humidity data is indicating that there are large variations in ice cover. These OTCs are covered by ice during a couple of days/weeks as a result of storms during summer. Then, they become ice free again, then, they become snow covered again etc. I was unlucky because there was a storm on Monday here. Maybe the first OTC will become completely ice free during the coming days, so I will check this regularly. 
Keep following this blog for this exciting research :-)
Cheers, Elie

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