Sunday was a historic day at Troll.
The first landing of a Ilyushin (IL-76) aircraft may not sound that impressive, but after a week of preparations at least everyone at Troll agreed it was historic. Regular intercontinental flights to East Antarctica is still in its infancy, and Troll plays a major role in that development.The Ilyushin is a massive russian jet freighter, used extensively during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (proving that logistics isn't everything, after all)
The plane had flown directly from Cape Town. Here in Dronning Maud Land, only Troll and Novolazerevskaya stations can receive aircraft this size. At the moment Novo airstrip is disabled by meltwater pools, being more vulnerable due to its lower elevation.
To cater for big wheeled jet aircraft, Troll airfield was scraped out of the blue ice in 2003. The new airfield formally opened in 2005. This summer, our mechanic Arnfinn has been out most days, polishing the airstrip with a big T4S piste basher. He also removes sand and dirt (blowing in from the mountains) that would otherwise absorb enough sun energy to melt holes deep into the ice cover.
Jørn, our welder, airport crewman for the day, directing the plane out to the side.
At the designated parking space, the door opened, northlings pouring out. The guys in red are german scientists and logisticians, travelling onwards to Neumayer station. The flight brought 16 germans, 17 belgians (going to Utsteinen), one englishman (going to Halley), and 7 fresh norwegians. Going back to Cape town 8 hours later were 10 belgians and 2 norwegians. Incoming passengers were being transferred to 5 different stations. I would never have remembered any of those numbers if our wise expedition leader hadn't had the foresight of printing out, and laminating, the whole equation.
Three of the by now familiar Baslers were summoned to bring everyone to their respective nowheres.
We pitched a tent to cater for the passengers in transit. Coffe, tea, frozen doughnuts: this was my responsibility for the day, in addition to the zero-work assignment of Airport Emergency Medic. It was quite nice to be right next to the coffee supply the whole morning - especially since the Ilyushin landed at 2.30am.
My first sighting of a red Basler.
Meanwhile, Jørn assisted with fueling the Ilyushin. These fuel tanks were brought in by ship (and diesel-hungry Everest sled trains) earlier in summer.
Each tank holds 6000 L of airfuel.
Running climate research takes ruining climate.
I drove this improvised sled-bus to bring the rest up to Troll station. Although covered in snow on arrival, they seemed to enjoy the brief visit, and got a warm lunch.
Sure beats drinking, by now cold, coffee, for 8 hours.
Ilyushin heading back to Cape Town.
Sweet isolation again.
I am norwegian doctor who worked as expedition doc on the Antarctic research station Troll for the summer season 2007-2008. NB: This blog is intended as a personal and ecological account from The Ice Planet - fully independent of the Norwegian Polar Institute, their official web page being: npweb.npolar.no