Sunday 6 January 2008 à 17:11

Final preparations before the mission begins

Par Stéphanie Pavoine. Based in Dumont D’Urville station

First contact with Anne Goffart, our mission leader, over lunch at the base. We talk about materiel and logistics mainly. She sets up a rendezvous for us, David, Thomas and me, at 16h on the ship.


So we still have a little time in the early afternoon to finish preparing our luggage and locking in the final points, since this campaign also marks the end of our over-wintering.

We arrive on time at the Lion airstrip where the Astrolabe usually anchors. The ice between Petrel Island (that houses the DDU base) and the Lion airstrip has, in large part, been swept out to sea. Fortunately there is still a little toward the south, enough to cross on foot without having to rely on a small boat or helicopter.

The terrain of winter has certainly changed! The snow is soft, sticky and it holds unexpected collapses if we are not careful. Small pieces of icebergs were trapped between the two islands last summer. They are holding together the structure that lets us cross. This ice bridge will surely not hold much longer; then comes the breakup.

Beginning of the breakup © P. Koubbi.


Here we are, all three, on board. We cross the hold where the technical team is already at work on the containers destined for DDU, Cape Prudhomme and Concordia. They must be unloaded before the freed space can be transformed. Temporary laboratories will be set up in new containers. The platform for launching scientific materiel will be put in place, soldered then unsoldered as in the preceding years. The setup seems like an enormous task to me.

View of the detail of the platform © IPEV.


We find Anne and Pierre in the passengers’ mess, to learn about what the ICOTA program will consist of this year, as part of the CEAMARC campaign. After a short briefing on the organization of roles and equipment, warm clothing and the indispensable cured ham to be retrieved from the kitchen on the base, Anne and Pierre advise us that the first thing to do is set up the laboratories. They prefer to wait for our two container labs that spent the winter on Lion airstrip to be loaded on board. While waiting, the primary concern is to retrieve the materiel left on the base last summer. A rendezvous is set for the next day at 9h at the containers to settle down to the task. The, a strategy meeting is held with the program leaders. Many programs will be living together during the campaign and all these people have to be organized if everything is to go smoothly.

While we are returning to the base with Thomas and David, I imagine the discussion could get heated. All the program leaders are anxious to manage them well and the allotted time is short. All the work between the arrival of the ship at DDU and the departure for the campaign has to be finished in three days. There seems to be no guarantee and the rumors circulating on base are pessimistic.

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