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

17 Dec 2007

The shelf - going down

2 days ago I came back from the shelf. I've been out 10 days. Some of the guys in our transport team have been out over 14 days. Coming back Troll station felt like a metropolis, with its showers, wide-screen TV, and personal space.

The shelf is where the inland ice gives way to the open sea. In summer, that is. During the 8 months of winter endless sheets of sea-ice would prevent safe docking and unloading of anything but the biggest ice-breakers.

This map shows the ice edge in relation to Troll, the red marks are our GPS waypoints on the journey down. A distance of approx 280 km, it took us 2 days down and 3 days back up. We spent several days at the shelf, first waiting for the russian cargo ship to arrive, then unloading it. We brought 12 containers back to Troll, but 10 more round trips are needed to bring all the cargo to base.

This is the Pinoh Everest vehicle used to pull the sleds and containers. My slightly more proletarian colleagues make fun of me for calling it a "car". It's a monster of a machine, but slow. Max speed with the 3-sled train attached is about 15 km/h. We bring lots of audiobooks and crisps.

Shortly after leaving Troll, we pass close by Stabben, pretending to be a smoking chimney.

The surroundings soon change to a white, trackless wasteland. This is Hellehallet, a gently sloping glacier, but getting more steep and crevassy in the so-called hinge zone (the area where the glacier floats out on the sea). Going through the hinge zone we're not allowed to leave the vehicles without safety ropes. The shelf ice is fairly safe to drive on, being several hundred meters thick. Worst case scenario is a big chunk of ice breaks loose, and we would be sailing north on a newly born iceberg.

The end of the ice planet. Temperature around -5 degrees, pleasant weather, blue ice shimmering in the sunlight. It's about 20 m down to the sea, and a strong current, so no skidoo-crossing close to the edge.

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