21 April 2007
At last, the air-dropping that was hoped for has taken place, yesterday at 6 pm after 20 days of negotiation and waiting.
Yesterday, at the end of the morning, the weather conditions appeared favourable to an air-dropping during the day with little wind and good visibility. Hence, Grant gave the signal for the Russian pilot who was in stand by in Murmansk to take off.
At the end of the afternoon, toward 5 pm, as the visibility began to diminish and the wind to change, Matthieu and Anatoli (Russian helicopter mechanic who joined us on the 10th of April) gave the latest coordinates GPS of the air-dropping zone to Viktor who was in radio contact with the Illution 76 pilots in charge of the air-dropping.
Soon, after the last radio contact, we saw this impressive machine appear within a cloud that was flying at an altitude of 700 m. The plane came once to spot the zone. When it came a second time, it opened its back baggage hold and air-dropped the two first pallets of equipment and the parachutes opened very fast. We admired these packages falling from the sky that landed on the pack ice without any damage. Then it made a last comeback to air-drop the two other pallets of which one contained the tractor that enabled us to finish the runway today.
We went to discover these packages to bring back to the boat as fast as possible the fresh supplies (fruit, vegetables and 130 kg of meat) and to start the tractor to finish the DC3 runway.
The mechanics started to fix the Russian caterpillar tractor and in less than two hours the tractor was on the runway.
The tractor operated all night to improve the runway and this morning the whole team took spades to clear off the big snowdrifts that the tractor could not remove.
The work that was accomplished enabled the DC3 to land this evening.11 new people, scientists and journalists joined the team. Nicolas and Viktor took the opportunity of this flight to leave the base after seven months of drift. We are thus 19 on the Tara Arctic base as of this evening.
For the remaining flights between Longyearbyen and Tara, we hope that the weather will be stable.
But we are now ten days away from the last flight initially planned.