On the occasion of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 the Belgian government commissioned the International Polar Foundation to build a new Antarctic research station. One of the co-founders and a driving force behind this project is explorer, civil engineer, entrepreneur, carpenter, mountain guide, and good-will Ambassador for UNICEF Alain Hubert.
In 1997/98 Alain crossed the Antarctic continent, with Dixie Dansercoer, covering 3924 km in 99 days in autonomy. I remember the two of them well. It was my first season on the Ice and these two were the smelliest but nicest people I ever met. After crossing Antarctica, one of them almost broke his neck on one of the rickety chairs in our computer lab. Unknowingly to Alain we later collaborated on a construction project. I finished the bathroom he started to build at a friends place in Maine.
Now he has put his tremendous energy behind this project. The station is designed for a population of 16 and thus on a much smaller scale than the new South Pole station. If everything goes according to plan the “Princess Elisabeth” station will be the first zero emission Antarctic station, using only solar and wind power.
Not only that, but she is also beautiful. Alain’s background as a carpenter certainly comes through. Check out this video of the station while it was on display in Belgium.
Thanks to the wonders of panoramic photography and flash animation you can actually walk through the interior of the new polar station as though you were inside the station.
The station is situated 300 m North of Utsteinen nunatak, on a small granite ridge, sticking out of the snow. The exact position is 71°57’ S and 23°20’ E. Utsteinen nunatak lies 60 km from the former Japanese Asuka station; 190 km South from Breid Bay, the edge of the ice shelf, 180 km South from the former Belgian Roi Baudouin base, and a few kilometres from the Sør Rondane range.
They are now putting the finishing touches on the station before closing down for the winter. Next year will be their first operational season and it will be interesting to get some feedback on how the station actually works.
For more information go the “Princess Elisabeth” Station web site