The Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station is Born
During the Antarctic summer season 2007-2008, the International Polar Foundation and its partners have pulled through an amazing achievement: the Princess Elisabeth station building can now be seen atop the Utsteinen Nunatak.
After a pre-mounting phase in Brussels last September, the objective of this year’s expedition was to transport the station’s modules to the construction site and to build the foundations, anchoring points, garages and outer shell of the first “zero emission” Antarctic station.
The team has been working nearly every day since November 2007 to complete these tasks, with a crew ranging between 30 and 40 people on site, depending on the rotations. The last module was put into place last week, closing the outer shell of the station. A day to day follow-up of the 2007-2008 BELARE expedition, along with picture galleries, videos and pedagogical dossiers is available on the station’s dedicated website.
The next phase will consist in building and calibrating all systems and scientific instruments before installing them in the station. The Princess Elisabeth station will thus be fully functional at the end of the 2008-2009 Antarctic season. Nevertheless, two scientific studies are scheduled for next season, under the supervision of the Belgian Scientific Policy.
First scientific studies
The first one is a glaciology study, led by Prof. Frank Pattyn. His research will focus on an “ice rise” situated 150 km away from the “Princess Elisabeth” station. This ice rise is a kind of “pinning point” (an island of grounded ice sheet surrounded by floating ice shelves) that helps to stabilize the coastal ice sheet. From there, ice radar measurements, velocity measurements with high-resolution permanent GPS stations, shallow firn coring and deep ice-coring along the grounding line will be carried out. The aim is to study the ice sheet’s behaviour in this area over the last 10,000 years.
The second one is a biology study, led by Dr. Annick Wilmotte. The idea is to explore the Utsteinen area and the nearby S