4.2.18 Polarstern was here!
Finally, the third and for us most important ship, the German research ice breaker RV Polarstern, arrived. I had been on the first winter expedition of Polarstern in 1986 as a young student, and of course, we came with Polarstern to Neumayer before we wintered and also went home with the ship. After the winter, she brought the first fresh fruit and salad, new people, and, most important: the MAIL! Nowadays, with e-mail and planes the importance of the ship has decreased. I had a chat with the captain, whom I had known as a young navigation officer already. He regretted that the connection of the ship with the base was not as close anymore as it used to be. The ship still brings a lot of the winter supplies, including food and fuel, and, also important: the skis and two snow bikes for the winterers!
However, the arrival of the ship was still a big event. On Sunday evening we went with the skidoos to the place where she was supposed to moor and we saw her arriving. It was a majestic sight, the ship plowing through the ice, beautiful icebergs in the background. It took a while until she had pushed away all the sea ice floes to get close enough to the ice shelf edge. We waited patiently and were rewarded by being allowed to go onboard via the so-called “mummy chair”, a metal basket that the crane brings over to the ice and back to the ship. We stayed on board until 11pm, then went home. While I was waiting for my colleagues at the helicopter deck I suddenly saw a movement in the water: a whale! The sky was almost overcast with cirrus clouds, which made everything, the water and the clouds, shimmer in pastel colors. A wonderful sight!
On the following day, the unloading started. After it had been finished Tuesday afternoon everybody went to the ship again for a little party. We also had a soccer game Polarstern- Neumayer. I hardly knew for whom to cheer since it turned out that the ship’s meteorologist , the goaly, was a former student from our institute. At 9pm the captain whistled to finish the game and everybody was brought back to the ship. The ship signalled with its claxon and while the big waving good-bye started she slowly left the ice edge and disappeared towards the icebergs in the distance. We went home in the Pistenbullys, “riding into the sunset”, since the station was due south.
The sun was setting right when we arrived at the base. This was the last ship to visit us. We expect more visitors by plane, in fact, very official visitors, the Norwegians have announced an inspection. Within the Antarctic Treaty, the different nations control each other; they mainly look if the environment is not harmed by station activities. We don’t know when they will come exactly, and I wonder if I will get a chance to try my Norwegian with them. The next plane will bring the former winterers and a large part of the summer people out, and the following one will be my flight out. The weather will decide when those flights will take place.