Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Arrival at Cape Prud'homme, Dumont d'Urville

Yesterday, Monday 18th, we succeeded in getting our flight across to
Dumont d'Urville by Basler.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned the Basler aircraft, but it is a workhorse
here in Antarctica - they are fully reconditioned/rebuilt DC3 airframes
with ski landing gear. The one we flew on yesterday was built around 1942,
from memory (I've flown in it before during our ICECAP radar flights in

We got away around 0830 and had a 4 hour flight, arriving in perfect
conditions: blue sky and a bare zephyr of wind. The area here is most
picturesque: the skiway is up a steep ice slope from the coast and on a
day like yesterday it has a panoramic view down to the sea (ice) and
across to a group of islands upon which the DDU station is located. There
are scattered icebergs all across the bay and out to sea.

This siting, with the main station of DDU on an island creates some
logistical issues, requiring helicopter and water craft during the height
of summer to get gear ashore to the continent itself. For this reason
there is a small satellite station called Cape Prud'homme (CP)on the
shore-side, and that is where we are staying. At the moment, the sea from
CP out to DDU is well and truly iced over and there is a road. We hope to
drive over sometime before we depart on the traverse.

CP itself has a couple of sheds for storing heavy equipment over winter
and a congenial living/accommodation area made up of containerised
modules. The population at the moment is around 20-21 persons, and we are
actually living out in the van-on-sleds that will be our traverse home.
Our traverse will have 9 people: we three Australians, three mechanics a
doctor and a couple of scientists.

CP is abuzz right now as preparations are finalised for two traverses. The
first one is scheduled to leave today and will travel to Concordia
Station, at Dome C. It will also groom a road for us as far as about D85
(500km) where we turn off to the west. We will follow in 2-3 days (no
point following too closely as we will just catch it up on the prepared

Once the Concordia traverse leaves, that will leave around 12 of us on
station. Our living van will be towed up the hill in readiness for our
departure, so we will relocate temporarily into the main CP quarters. One
minor ongoing challenge of this exercise since leaving Hobart has been
managing our kit for ever changing transport and accomodation options so
that some essential piece of clothing or equpment isn't buried in a bag in
a container out of reach. We did a quick rationalise yesterday to see what
could be "archived" until we reach Aurora Basin, and the rest we are
cramming into our living van for traverse. I failed to compact my stuff
sufficiently before bedtime yesterday and slept in my bunk with an array
of unsorted clothes and gadgets - today's job includes some rationalising!

There is not a whole lot left for preparing our traverse - mostly sorting
a last few items into the containers and getting things up the hill to
where the vehicles and sleds are being marshalled.

So we face the "difficult" task now of spending a couple of days in good
French hospitality, being well ahead of our departure schedule, after some
favourable weather windows all down the line. If we get away later this
week, that will put us a few days ahead still, and so we are all pleased.