Before the closure of the Belgian “Princess Elisabeth Antarctica” station for winter, it was crucial for the BELARE team to finish the construction of the station’s new garage. The new garage is located in the northern annex of the station.
The garage, which was more than ten years old, and the workshops had been built on the ice of the glacier and now had to be replaced. That is why the BELARE construction team concentrated with all its strength on the construction of the new, specially designed PREFALUX structure.
The new structure can withstand the movement of the glacier and houses a long-awaited heated garage for the maintenance and repair of all the machines used in the station, several workshops, a storage area and a final shelter for the station’s two backup generators. Fortunately, the good weather conditions allowed the team to complete the work and construction process in just over two weeks.
First steps of construction in 2019
In November and December 2019, the old garage was demolished. In January 2020, the site was cleared of snow by ship until the building materials were delivered and levelled at two different heights. The foundations of the building were also prepared.
One of the challenges during this time was to keep the emergency generators protected and operational if they were ever needed. Therefore, a remaining part of the old garage was kept intact until there was enough space in the new garage and its new storage area was ready.
Arrival of building materials by icebreaker
After the South African science and supply ship, the “S.A. Agulhas II”, arrived on the coast of Droning Maud Land on 30 January 2020, all its cargo was discharged onto the shelf ice. The BELARE team then transported about 150 tons of delivered building materials to the station to begin construction of the new building as soon as possible.
On February 16, the new garage was ready and ready for overwintering. By that time, the second group of scientists had already left the station, and the last 16 members of the BELARE team were left to begin the technical operation of the station’s hibernation.
Functions of the new building
One of the biggest advantages of the new garage is that it will be heated from the 2020/21 season on. This was essential for the proper maintenance of all machines and for the working comfort of the mechanics. When all the finishing work on the interior will be completed next season, the new building will also house a wood and metal workshop, as well as a storage room for tools, equipment and spare parts for machinery.
About the Princess Elisabeth Station
The Princess Elisabeth Station is a Belgian polar research station built during the International Polar Year 2007-2008 in the hinterland of the Princess Ragnhild Coast in Queen Maud Land. The station is powered exclusively by solar and wind power. It was inaugurated on 15 February 2009.
After almost forty years without direct Belgian participation in polar research in Antarctica, on the initiative of the International Polar Foundation and with the support of the Foundation,
The rocky terrain on which the station was built is located at an altitude of 1400 metres above sea level and 180 km from the coast.
Eighty percent of the station’s aerodynamically designed building is made of wood. Solar cells on the walls and roof of the station as well as eight wind turbines ensure the power supply. A diesel generator is available in case of emergency. Three-quarters of the waste water is recycled.
Twelve researchers will conduct research in various fields at the station on a usable area of 700 m2, including meteorology, glaciology, research into Earth magnetism, microbiology research and studies on climate change. The “Princess Elisabeth Station” is designed for a service life of 25 years, almost twice as long as other stations.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal