Sara Ramos, Argentina, 11 March 2018
As any other, this story is about to get its final. On Sunday 4th March, we left Primavera on board of the Argentinian military ship “Canal Beagle”.
The best things I’ve learned from Primavera is to coexist in harmony with the different fauna one can find here, to live so close with so different people and of course, to dance Quarteto, the most typical Argentinian dance. The worse part of any journey is packing everything to come back. The logistics to close out the base were especially hard, as the place needed to be completely emptied and clean before being close for the winter. Therefore, we had to join the party of packing all the stuff used to work and survive during the whole the Argentinian campaign: hundreds of equipment, 3 months rubbish, tones of non-consumed food, boat engines, empty gas and oil barrels and so on.
Moreover, the pick-up work gets even harder when it comes to the Cierva Point environment. The icebergs, the slippery ground and the curious leopard seals poking around do not help in the boat charging process.
After leaving Primavera, we were supposed to stay in the “Canal Beagle” about 5 days until it will drop us in King George Island, where our flight was scheduled to leave Antarctica on 9th March. However, schedules in Antarctica are never definitive and dates and plans use to change in matter of hours due to weather conditions and logistic issues. As per usual, the flight was finally cancelled and it was delayed for 4 days, so we stayed on-board almost 10 days.
I confess I’ve learned few things about patience while staying at this ship. When you are on-board, you just can try to keep calm and find a creative way for spending the infinite time in a non-wifi place until the longed plane come to pick you up. Sometimes the situation gets a bit stressful as you must share your life in so tiny areas with another 160 people, so intimacy and lone moments are payed so expensive here.
However, not everything is that bad, at the end of the day you realize you have exponentially enriched your cinematic knowledge as you have watched more movies in these 10 days than previously in your life. In addition, you end up knowing much better your colleagues, as you have had long and extended conversations with them.
While our stay on the ship, we at least had the opportunity of step on land for few hours and visit Carlini, another Argentinian Antarctic base. People in here were so welcoming and I had the opportunity of try my first and last Argentinian “asado” in outdoors Antarctic style.
On March 12th, the Hercules Argentinian plane finally came to pick us up in King George Island and lift us to Rio Gallegos (Argentina). This “Lockheed C-130 Hercules” plane is the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. It consist in a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings making it a good option for supporting the scientific research in Antarctica.
Being inside of this plane while flying is such an experience. It feels like being a soldier in a typical 2nd world war movie. The safety is quite rudimentary, the seats are constitute by belt nets to optimize the space, the cabin is not soundproof so you’d better grab some headphones to stand the deafening continuous noise, finally, the minimal pressurization system makes you strongly feel your body depressing while lifting. Despite of this, flying in such an old school plane is something that I loved to experiment and I’ll keep it on my records.
Once landed in Rio Gallegos, everyone split to different destinations and then it becomes the saddest moment, the moment to say good-bye to all the amazing people with who I’ve been living during the past weeks. Despite we insist on this non being a good bye, but a see you soon, we know we are all people from different countries and is gonna be difficult to have the opportunity of meeting again.
After a night over in Rio Gallegos, I travel to Punta Arenas (Chile) from where I will take my flight back to Spain on March 18th. Here, I am currently spending some days getting used again to the city life, the crowd, the cars, the commerce and the money. I hope this help to carry out a progressive adaptation back to “the real world”.
Sara Ramos e Gabriel Goyanes, Base argentina Primavera, Antártica
The last week I’ve lived the most exciting and, at the same time frightening, experiences here so far. I have really experienced the Antarctic thrill that runs through your body when you become aware of the risks and dangers that Antarctica entails.
On January 25th we arrived to our last Antarctic spot “Cierva Point”, in the continental Antarctic Peninsula on-board of our old friend “The Hespérides”. In Cierva Point we would spend a week in the military commanded Argentinian “Primavera Base”.
The landing manoeuvres to reach this place on the very first day were anything but easy and I must confess I experimented one of my biggest adrenaline discharge ever. From the boat, we got in the zodiac that drove us about 2km to the shore passing through the middle of huge icebergs and extremely dense brush. One hour and a half of inaccessible conditions, plus a water way coming into the boat due to an ice crash and a leopard seal chasing our boat almost all the way through, obligated us to suspend the first attempt of getting the shore.
A second attempt few hours later with slightly better conditions finally allowed us to landing in the Southern beach of the base where our Argentinian fellows where waiting to receive us.
At the first glance, this place is impressive, a small ice-free area where the lovely Primavera Base stands at the bottom of a hill surrounded by water and huge neighbour glaciers. This place is rarely green to be here in Antarctica, the relatively often-sunny weather and a soil rich in substrate and water in the area allow different kinds of vegetation to grow, such as mosses, lichens and gramineas.
Moreover, this place constitutes a paradise for penguins, who chose this place as the safest to nest, rise and teach the youngest ones to hunt and get ready to survive during the incoming cold conditions of the winter, when they will emigrate to somewhere else searching for warmer conditions. Not only the penguins make themselves at home in Cirva Point, this place is rich on other different kinds of fauna; leopard seals, whales, orcas, and different birds live as well in the neighbourhood.
Looking at the sights of this place on a sunny day, everyone would consider it as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, as my colleague and friend Marc Oliva said me once “we must have done something good in this life to be that lucky to be here”.
The week in here passed quickly and we didn’t stop working a minute, the biggest aim in this place was to perform as many drone flights as we could in order to cover the maximum area to create a good map through the drone images after processing them.
The mission was almost accomplished until, during the very last performance, the drone just faded away in the cloudy sky disappearing from our sight during enough time to figure out that something was gone wrong and it had fallen. We rushed ourselves up in a firstly unsuccessful search for the accidental drone by the shore cliffs. Minutes later, I fixed my view in a small iceberg about 20m from the shore that seemed to have an uncommon scar on the top; after checking it twice with binoculars, we could not believe we were seeing our drone on it. Despite of the unlucky falling, it had been lucky enough to land in the tiny iceberg instead of in the immensity of the water.
Chances to recover the drone and uppermost, its memory card, were almost none if it wouldn’t be thanks to the Pelagic crew, who courageously came crossing the Drake in a sailing boat to record some content for documentary purposes and helped us to pick our drone climbing up in the iceberg.
This week has been a bit more stressful than usual because of the unlucky events. Moreover, at the end of the week we received extremely shocking news from The Hesperides ship where we had been travelling few days ago. It seems like one of the Spanish military researches on-board accidentally fell off the boat to the freezing water few miles away. It was already too late when the crew from Hespérides found the death body six hours later. In these Antarctic waters, an exposed person would just stand alive about 5min in the extremely cold water until getting hypothermia. My most sincere condolences to Javier Montojo’s family, I hope this sad event helps to create awareness about the real dangers that this remote place entails.
DIÁRIOS DA CAMPANHA