Hello, everyone! … So here it is, our first entry in the AtkaXpress blog. As I’m writing, there are currently 17 of us here at the Neumayer III station, a multinational community. It includes 8 Canadians with their two beautiful old Basler aeroplanes (two somewhat elderly “ladies” by the names of “Lidia” and “K”) and us, the nine new overwinterers from Germany, Brazil, Switzerland and last but not least … Bavaria.
Most of our conversations tonight will be in English. Then, early in the morning, it will be time to say goodbye to our new Canadian friends, who will depart for Argentina before this blog entry is released. We’ll hear the roar of the motors one last time and keep watching the planes until they disappear over the horizon. And then we’ll be alone … and together for the next eight months. We all knew what it meant when we chose this adventure, and look forward to the challenges of being so isolated in a hostile environment.
It all started on 31 July 2019 – the day the nine of us moved into our shared holiday apartments in Bremerhaven and met for the first time: four scientists (Anna, our meteorologist; Julia, our atmospheric chemist; and Ina and Noah, our geophysicists); our cook Wanderson from Brazil; our radio operator and resident computer genius Roman from Switzerland; Andreas, our expert for everything to do with electricity and guardian of the Skidoos; Mario, the calming influence and responsible for the countless mechanical components in this immense station; and yours truly, serving as doctor and Base Commander.
From August to November, we took part in both preparatory courses for the whole group (e.g. an alpine course on Taschachferner Mountain to help us learn rescue procedures for glacier crevasses; fire-fighting course in Neustadt an der Ostsee; and a fall protection and chainsaw course in Bremerhaven) and discipline- and situation-specific courses for the respective groups (in my case, a three-week crash course on the fundamentals of dentistry, and another on anaesthesia). Additional courses like conflict management, crisis intervention and media training rounded out our preparation phase. And the whole time, we had one goal in mind: to overwinter on this inhospitable yet beautiful continent.
And finally, after a several-day-long journey with numerous weather delays, on 21 January 2019 we found ourselves standing for the first time before the massive Neumayer III station, which, on its struts, looked like a spaceship hovering over the ice shelf. Standing in the dazzling sunshine, we were all grinning from ear to ear. After that, the previous overwintering team helped familiarise us with the different types of work done at the station, working with us day after day. It was a busy, exhausting time, simply because there were so many new things to learn – in the midst of hectic operations, with more than 50 scientists and staff from the technical team, who had to complete routine maintenance and repairs on the station and its large pool of vehicles. At some point, we started longing for the day when the nine of us would wake up at the station “alone and together”…
That day will come tomorrow … and our adventure will truly begin.
We hope our new friends from Canada have a good flight – and get to Argentina safe and sound. Tomorrow night we’ll be thinking of you, and of our friends and families back home …
… and then it will be just the nine of us for the next eight months.
We’ll meet again someday. Our best wishes go out to the world at large, to our friends and families, and to everyone who’s thinking of us … and we’ll keep checking in.
Just one small request: questions and comments from readers are what keep blogs going … so feel free to write in and send us your questions!