Last year, a group of three students from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) approached us in the framework of their course on science communication. They were interested in organising a post-expedition conference on Belgica120. As we unfortunately needed to turn around after our first attempt, Lea, Maya and Géraldine decided to draft a general audience paper in Science Connection, a journal edited by the Belgian Science Policy Office. The paper has now been published and you can discover their work here (in French of Dutch): FR-https://bit.ly/2JZ61JY NL-https://bit.ly/2qJCaMU
Marking the 121st anniversary since the first Antarctic expedition in human history, an international team of nine scientists embarks on a journey to the frozen continent. Our choice of transport: a small sail boat.
We are launching a crowdfunding campaign to support the preparation of a documentary about this extraordinary adventure. This documentary is an intimate account of a small group of ambitious individuals, who are passionate about introducing a more sustainable way of conducting Polar research to the science community. The harsh beauty of the Antarctic landscape is reflected in the rawness of the footage, which will be captured by the scientists themselves – above and below water. Some of the most deeply poetic and profoundly personal texts have been produced by the original explorers during what we today refer to as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”. While the old diaries speak of the struggle for survival, this documentary rather resembles a first-hand video journal about the fervour that comes with realising ones aspirations, the hope for making a change, the strains of the sea, and the intensifying pressure of no escape.
More information on our kickstarter project page…
I guess there’s no easy way to say this. About 24h ago we suffered an engine problem, more specifically a broken gearbox. Although the crew tried very hard, this is something that couldn’t be fixed on the spot. Very bad luck. We turned around and are sailing back towards Ushuaia. We’re all safe and sound and the weather conditions are fine. The spare parts needed for repairs won’t arrive soon though, so it will be the end of this year’s attempt for our expedition.
I feel incredibly sorry, particularly for our chief scientist and skipper who both worked extremely hard and invested so much to make this happen. Everybody is very sad of course, but we have not given up the dream. If the odds are not with us now, maybe they are another time – we’re already thinking about next year for a new attempt…
Time is a relative thing. We left Belgium only 4 days ago – feels much longer with all that happened. Now, it accelerates again, throttle down and off: last dinner, shower, night, and right now breakfast on land. We got a security briefing yesterday already. Departure within the next hour. Approx. 8h until Cape Horn and then enter the Drake Passage. Drake lake or Drake shake? Either way, here we go!
After two days of traveling we have finally arrived in Ushuaia. Ben (our skipper) picked us up from the airport. Even though we were tired and exhausted, we went directly to the harbour and had a first look at the Australis, the ship we are going to call home for the next few weeks. Stowing away all our equipment and luggage was another challenge, however now is everything is packed and ready. Customs clearence tomorrow … planned departure on Sunday the 25th!!
Getting up at 4.30 to take our last flight. Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Our whole team is exited to finally see the Australis on which we’ll be living and working for the next month. But first, getting all our luggage back to airport.
We arrived safely in Buenos Aires. After 14h of flight, the warmth and humidity of northern Argentina is giving us a brief respite before it is getting colder again. Having one day to our next flight (to Ushuaia), we are using the time to explore the city, having brief science meetings for some of us (Charlène) and generally stacking up on sun and warmth.
Some gear is already in Ushuaia, the remaining stuff is now ready for our flight from Paris. We checked it in already at the train station in Brussels. That was a good call – we did have a lot of extra bags and weight, especially due to all the diving equipment. My little bag has now a heavy lead belt on top. Hope nothing gets crushed… Next stop Buenos Aires!
The countdown’s ticking very fast… only two days until departure in Brussels. In the meantime our scientific equipment has already arrived and was taken aboard. Hooray! Sending oftentimes valuable, sometimes unique (think ROV, special diving & fishing devices, …) gear half way round the world and back can be challenging, to say the least. A lot of administration and paperwork (and patience) is needed to get everything on track. Luckily our chief has been very persistent and eventually managed to master the bureaucracy jungle attached to the task. So, now it’s there and we have some graphic proof, which is great… but, hey, wait what is that?! What happened to our box (very solid and sturdy aluminum box that is)?
Things rarely go as planned with end of the world exploration. And so our first surprise is an equipment box already punched in before it even got on board. We’re still lucky though. Nothing absolutely crucial seems to be in that box and also while the box itself has definitely changed shape, the content seems largely intact. Phew. Back in Europe our next immediate challenge is to not overload our bags and get everything checked in.