Dani Vonder Mühll, ETH Zurich. King George Island, Feb 16, 2019
A small talk in Chamonix (F) during the 5th European Permafrost Conference in June 2018 was the initiation to join the Propolar Permantar Project. Less than eight months later, on February 13, 2019, I met Gonçalo, Carlos, Joana, Pedro, and Vasco at Mirijam’s B&B in Punta Arenas (Chile). While Pedro and Vasco planned a drone-based remote sensing campaign, the four of us aimed at drilling and instrumenting a 10 to 15 m deep borehole into the permafrost of Barton peninsula (Antarctica).
Although I led and accompanied about 20 permafrost drillings in the Swiss Alps and in Europe including Svalbard, this project was quite special: (a) Antarctica is actually a glacier-covered continent with only 2% of not glaciated area. So, we have to choose a drill site that at the border of Antarctica. (b) All equipment has to be carried by man-power to the drill site. (c) And finally, the Portuguese-Swiss Team that met mid of February in Chile is based in the South Korean Research Station of King Sejong.
The two days in Punta Arenas were used to complement and check the material. And, since everything was ok, we took the opportunity to visit Pali Aike, a volcanic field close to the boarder to Argentina. The weather was sunny, but wind was very strong and without a single minute of rest – we Europeans felt. The two local guides didn’t notice, since for them it was just a light breeze.
Weather forecasts for February 15 were not really clear, and when at 4 pm Gonçalo informed that the decision will be postponed by 2 hours, it turned out that this was just the beginning of postponed decisions, not a good sign anyways. Eventually, we learned at 9 pm that the flight was scheduled for tomorrow before noon. Even though the destination of King George Island (Antarctica) sound very spectacular, it turned out that the procedure and even the aircraft including crew did not differ from many other flights. We left the South American continent at 11 am and arrived on the gravel runway at 1 pm: here we are, Antarctica! Our South Korean hosts picked us up at the airport, and brought us with two vessels to the King Sejong Station.
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