Going “home” or exploring a new world?
28 years ago I wintered as a meteorologist at the German Antarctic base “Neumayer”. We flew to South America and then took the ship. After 10 days at sea we arrived at the station, the last 10 Miles we flew by helicopter. This is what the station looked like when we landed:
I remember that I thought, “This flyspeck shall be my home for 15 months”??
The station was situated underneath the snow. Built at the surface in 1981, it was covered by more and more snow that the frequent storms brought, and, in 1989, it was 10m below the snow surface. It was made of metal tubes that had the shape of an “H”, and in the tubes there were containers that formed the labs, the living quarters, everything. You could only see the upper end of the “staircase tower” in the middle and the four towers with ladders to climb out plus some “fresh-air tubes”. In winter we were 9 people: 4 scientists, a doctor, a cook, a radio operator and two engineers. In our case, all women. Antarctica had been a male domain for many decades. Women had not been allowed for a long time. In 1989, the Germans still did not allow mixed crews! So we went as the first and only all-female Antarctic wintering team, it was our only chance, and we took it. (We had to find the crew (with professions that were dominated by men) ourselves.)
The new base is built on poles at the snow surface in order to let the snow being blown through underneath rather than piling up and burying the station. I have never seen it. (Hope to be able to take a phote of it soon!)
In two weeks I will fly to Capetown, and, weather permitting, I will arrive at Neumayer a couple of days later. Will it feel like coming home? The familiar sight of the vast, rough snow surface, the view to the beautiful icebergs in Atka Bay, the distant, blue “hill” Halfvar Ridge… Or will it be a completely new experience, on a modern base in times of internet, planes etc.? I will report!