I am norwegian doctor who worked as expedition doc on the Antarctic research station Troll for the summer season 2007-2008. NB: This blog is intended as a personal and ecological account from The Ice Planet - fully independent of the Norwegian Polar Institute, their official web page being: npweb.npolar.no

01 Dec 2007

The lifeline

I spend a good deal of time at Troll airfield as part of the "ground crew" and as emergency medical backup (!). The airstrip is 7 km away from the base, 30 minutes drive by BV-206, 10 min by snowmobile. Why so far away? Mainly because the blue ice right next to the station is sloping gently and covered in massive boulders (picked up by the glacier, and uncovered as the ice melts and sublimates). It's also our drinking water.

The semi-desert conditions at Troll make the area ideal for an airstrip, because it's practically possible to keep the runway clear of snow, exposing the ice beneath, giving a hard enough surface for big wheeled aircraft to land on.

Most of the inter-antarctic flights, though, are done with the small Basler BT-67 (above) aircraft. Carrying skis, it could theoretically land anywhere on the ice. The Basler is a new version of the grand old Douglas DC-3 from 1935. A simple, sturdy plane, it looks as if stalling in mid air as it approaches ground, seemingly able to land, and stop, on less than 100 m runway.

Our airport facilities are simple - no control tower, just a hand-held air radio (standing on the roof of the BV-206 boosts reception), and a stack of fuel barrels (depots running dangerously low now at the end of winter). The plane carries its own fuel pump (seen in the picture above). The guy inspecting the rotor blade is one of the friendly canadian pilots.

The view from the airstrip.
The square-looking cliff is called "Stabben", a prominent landmark in the Jutulsessen nunatak. For those geologically inclined: Stabben is a syenite, that's a magmatic rock type, standing alone, being a so-called intrusive rock amongst mainly older, metamorphic rocks (mainly migmatites) . And talking of which - the skidoo in the picture belongs to the British Antarctic Survey, currently preparing a two-man geological sampling (=scientific rock collecting) expedition in the area. More on that later!

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