This Saturday, December 1, commences the scientific and exploration expedition ‘Antarctica Unexplored DOME FUJI 2018-2019’ with the WindSled, the polar eco-vehicle that will travel 2,000 kilometers in the interior of the Antarctic plateau to develop 10 research projects and reach one of the most inhospitable and unknown areas of the planet.
Hilo Moreno, Manuel Olivera and Ramón Larramendi. Ignacio Oficialdegui is missing (to complete the crew)
The expedition, funded by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Tasermiut SGE and with a contract from the European Space Agency, departs on Saturday from Spain to South Africa (Cape Town), from where they are scheduled to leave for Antarctica on December 7, specifically to the airfield at the Russian base in Novolazárevskaya, from where they will be transferred by a Basler plane to the ice desert.
Manuel Olivera, testing…
It will be the first scientific expedition in that area of the continent with a ‘zero emissions’ vehicle (only consuming 105 liters of fuel during the expedition duration to melt ice for drinking water).
The designer and promoter of the expedition is the polar explorer Ramón Larramendi, who will be accompanied on this adventure by the Navarran biologist Ignacio Oficialdegui, the Mallorcan engineer Manuel Olivera and the expert mountain and polar guide, Hilo Moreno, from Madrid. In total, they estimate they will invest about 50 days in the polar crossing, in which they will ascend on the WindSled to Dome Fuji, located at an altitude of 3,810 meters above sea level, and which is the second highest point of Antarctica’s interior.
Throughout the 2,000 kilometers, they will acquire fundamental data for polar scientific research, given that, at present, researchers do not have much information of the area (only via satellite) covered in the planned route. Specifically, for the European Space Agency (ESA) by contracting of services to obtain ground information regarding the operation of the Galileo satellite constellation component (the European GPS); Drilling the ice to six meters in depth will be carried out to obtain samples to be analyzed by Dr. Paul Mayewski’s team (Director of the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA).
In addition, it will carry on board devices such as MEDA sensors and instruments (SOLID, Astrobiology Center) that have been designed to travel to Mars; they will collect air samples to detect if there are persistent organic contaminants (fertilizers, PVC, etc.) in Antarctic air for Sentinel (CSIC-University of Alcalá de Henares); They will collect air samples (MicroAirPolar project for the Autonomous University of Madrid and AEMET Antarctica) and soil samples (for the Antair project, University of Valencia) in search of microorganisms, among other projects.
During these last days, the four expeditionary finalize the preparations of the scientific equipment, food, clothes, material, etc., fundamental for their survival. Many of them have been developed and designed for this expedition by Altus. Among the appliances, the stove that will be used to melt ice and thus have water, which burns with the only fossil fuel of the entire expedition: 105 liters, as compared to 30,000 liters that would involve a tour of these characteristics in any motorized expedition.
On this occasion, the WindSled has been built entirely from scratch thanks to a crowdfunding campaign in which 340 patrons have participated. It consists of three modules (handling, loading and living) with a total length of 10 m by 4 m wide. Given its versatility, it can be separated into two parts if the conditions so require. Thanks to the eolian energy harnessed by large kites, 2,000 kg of weight will be mobilized, of which 500 kg correspond to the vehicle.
Right before departure, researchers from ESA and the different participating institutions have made important developments in adapting their devices so they may ride on the WindSled. Likewise, the team has designed a support (which they have dubbed the ‘spider’) in which all the scientific instruments will be orderly placed.
During the voyage, the expedition members will receive very precise updates from the AEMET-Antarctica Group (Spanish Meteorological Agency), which will allow them to previously know the winds they will have every day during the Antarctic expedition 2018/19. Ramón Larramendi has indicated: “We know that we will have problems in the Dome Fuji climb, but we are sure that we will overcome them and fulfill all our objectives. ”
This is the third occasion in which the WindSled visits Antarctica (previously in 2005 and 2012), although it is the first one with an improved model of the eco-vehicle and a 100% scientific and technological goal.