An unexpected layover in the Antarctic.

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October 2007. I was on my way to Antarctica for the second time in 2 years. Not by ship this time, but with a Hercules plane, straight from Buenos Aires. Our destination was Jubany, an Argentinian military base / research station where I was going to perform a number of experiments to study the impact of global warming on marine fauna. We were supposed to go to Marambio first: a quick stop to pick up a few people they told us. Marambio is another Argentinian military base and not really a stop in between BA and Jubany, since it is located much more to the south, deeper into the Antarctic territory. And it turned out to be a much longer delay than what we had expected…

Tuesday 30/10/2007 (from my diary):

“… During our flight we were informed that we would have to stay overnight on Marambio, and maybe stay there much longer than that. Reason unclear. Towards the end of our flight, our project leader Doris started to be genuinely concerned because some of us didn’t wear protective pants. It turned out the temperature around the base was -20°C (-4°F)! I started to get worried myself, and had visions of frozen limbs… In the end the temperature wasn’t really a problem, although it was exceptionally cold. ”

This was the situation when we arrived: not really weather to build a snowman outside...
This was the situation when we arrived: not really weather to build a snowman outside…

Wednesday 31/10/2007 (from my diary):

“… I stayed inside the base all day. There’s a lot of wind outside and there’s snow everywhere. I’m feeling a bit sick” “… It’s either very cold in here, especially in the hallway (where there’s even snow on some spots, and patches of ice), or very hot (bedrooms).”

In the local museum. Antarctic fossils!
In the local museum. Antarctic fossils!
Yes, that's ice in the corner of our main corridor...
Yes, that’s ice in the corner of our main corridor…
And that's what you do when there's to much snow inside...
And that’s what you do when there’s to much snow inside…
Really glad our room had an emergency exit...
Really glad our room had an emergency exit…

Friday 02/11/2007 (from my diary):

“… Went outside for the first time today. It was about time I got some fresh air. A Hercules plane was also supposed to land in the afternoon, bringing extra supplies. Wrapped in thick clothes I faced the freezing cold. I think I was outside only for maybe an hour or so, but my nose, cheeks, fingers and toes hurt like hell. A colleague told me it was -25°C (-13°F) today, and that’s even without taking the wind chill factor into account! We had to wait quite a while for the Hercules to arrive: soooo painful! The landing was pretty spectacular, so close to where we stood.”

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In front of the base. Freezing.
In front of the base. Freezing.
The landing of the Hercules.
The landing of the Hercules.

Saturday 03/11/2007 (from my diary):

“… Went out again around 4p.m. The weather was fabulous: blue skies, lots of sun, no wind. As a result, it was getting quite hot inside my polar jacket after a while. But no complaints after all that bad weather of the last days. I took a lot of photos of the surroundings and the ice. We went a bit further as well today: beyond the landing strip and down a slope on the other side. We had the greatest view: a huge nunatak (a mountain sticking out of an ice field) stood right in front of us. We also found many fossils on the slope: thousands of fossil shells, but also a few gastropods (snails) and bone fragments. … A couple of completely white snow petrels were flying overhead. I still remember those birds from my Polarstern adventure of last year…”

And that's the base on a sunny day.
And that’s the base on a sunny day.
What a view!
What a view!

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Not something you see every day, this nunatak.
Not something you see every day, this nunatak.

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There were thousands of fossilized shells.
There were thousands of fossilized shells.

We had to wait until the 10th of November until we could finally leave Marambio for Jubany. A tiny Twin Otter plane would take us to King George Island. It would be quite an adventure. But that’s a story I will tell in the next blog post…

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