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In order to get a better idea of the state of the plasmasphere, one of the inner regions of the magnetosphere, our colleague Fabien Darrouzet installed a compact VLF antenna at the Princess Elisabeth base in Antarctica (from January 8 – February 10, 2016).

The antenna is part of a worldwide network that gathers data to improve and refine computer models of the plasmasphere.
Follow his adventure below.

 

Beginning of the second week (January 18 – 20, 2016)

Fabien now has his own skidoo ;-)

 

Second Sunday at the Princess Elisabeth base (January 17, 2016)



For two hours and a half, we were hiking through very beautiful landscapes, sometimes in the snow but mostly on ice. Luckily, we had crampons on...


Sunday, a day of rest? We nevertheless walked to the Utsteinen mountain ridge (located right next to the base).

 

Setting up the instrument (January 13-16, 2016)



The base’s surroundings, as viewed from within.

 





The beautiful surroundings of the Princess Elisabeth base.

 

We set up the instrument in a box on the table, which we further secure with blocks of snow and ice. The cable goes into the ditch and we install the computers in the lodge.

 

The weather stays nice... We continue our hard work, but I do take the time to take a picture of “blue snow”, which is not easy!

 

In the meantime, a military man digs the ditch our cable will end up in...

 

Today, we dig a hole for some kind of table, which we then secure spectacularly with water ice.

 

We shove the cables into protective tubes. It turns out that it is not easy to connect the cables, but we do succeed!

 

This is how you unroll an electricity cable of 500 meters towards a lodge that is located at the slope of the mountain...

 

Aided by these rolls, we transport the long cable to the measurement instrument situated 500 meters from the station.

 

 

The first tests outside (January 11-12, 2016)

Duty calls. We perform a second test to ensure this is the most suitable location to set up the instrument. This time, we use a wooden post to avoid the earlier noted disturbances. The results are better. This is our spot!

 


The sun re-appears from behind the clouds. Another beautiful day at the Belgian base! There is still a lot of wind, but the sun provides us with a splendid and magical view of the distant mountains.

The results are interesting... 

... but a new test with a wooden post in the snow will be necessary the next day.

 

We test the different locations by setting up the instrument on the ground or on a human post.

 

The surrounding landscape is stunning!

 

PC

Even if the sky is cloudy, we have trouble reading what appears on our computer’s screen due to the intensity or brightness of the light. So, we put the computer into the trunk of a skidoo...

 

Ski-doo

In order to choose the exact most suitable location to set up our instrument, we perform tests using a mini-instrument during a ride on the skidoo.

 

 

First Sunday at the Princess Elisabeth base (January 10, 2016)



The base is mainly built out of wood. Here you see the carpenter’s workplace as well as the storerooms. Our drinks just arrived by boat.

 

Japanese lavatories, through and through hygienic!!

 

This is the room we share. It is on the ground floor of the base. This corridor gives access to 8 rooms.


First day at the Princess Elisabeth base (January 9, 2016)

Ski-Doo

We rise at 8 o’clock for our daily briefing at 8.30. In the afternoon we have skidoo practice...

 


The rest of the day is taken up by emptying the boxes containing our equipment to verify if everything we need is there. We can start the first preparations for the set-up of our instrument...

 

Voyage to Antarctica (January 8, 2016)



By the time we have transferred all our luggage and equipment to a smaller and less noisy propeller aeroplane with windows – under a sky as white as a sheet and in an icy wind – it is 7 p.m.

 

 

After a five-and-three-quarters-hour flight, we arrive in Novo, a Russian base…

 

 

We get up at the crack of down this morning (at 6 o’clock) to take off at 10 a.m...

 

Cape Town - Kaapstad (January 5-7, 2016)

In the afternoon of January, 7 we have a briefing about flights destined for Antarctica. Our departure approaches.

 

Cape Town

We have arrived in Cape Town and marvel at the phenomenal Table Mountain.

 

The journey out (January 4-5, 2016)

On January 4, 2016 we leave for Cape Town via Istanbul. We get to see very beautiful panoramas.

 

Before departure (December 2015)

The preparations for our mission to Antarctica are going well. The equipment leaves from Belgium for the Princess Elisabeth base on December 22, 2015…

 

About the author

Fabien DarrouzetFabien is a researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BISA) since 1998. He finished and achieved his PhD at the University of Orléans (France) in 2006.

His mainly conducts scientific research on the plasmasphere (one of the inner regions of the magnetosphere), making use of the four Cluster satellites as of older and more recent missions, such as IMAGE and the Van Allen Probes respectively.

During the present AWDA project: to detect whistlers with VLF measurements he (will) also use(s) ground-based observations

 

Contact Fabien Darrouzet

 

Alexander Mangold’s blog (RMI), a RMI colleague who went to Antarctica too

 

 

Link naar de website van het Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid
Link naar de Federale Portaalsite