Saturday, June 9, 2007

Starting out

All adventures start somewhere, with a single step, though it may not be easy to isolate the starting step from all the others.

This particular adventure started, for me at least, last February, when it was very naively suggested we could not let the International Polar Year go by without submitting a proposal to perform a large seismic experiment in Antarctica. From there, things started moving along with their own momentum. We wrote the project, and submitted it just before the deadline of March 1st. Then we started waiting for the verdict: funded or not funded ?

At this time, we still don't know, but like all good expeditionists, we have a backup plan. Should our large experiment not be approved, we have planned a smaller, considerably cheaper experiment which which we should be able to run with the funds we already have available.

Working in Antarctica is a logistical nightmare, as you might imagine. None of it would be possible without the logistical and financial support of specialized Polar Institutes, in particular - for us - the French Polar Institute (Institut Paul Emile Victor). The more complex the logistics, the sooner they have to be planned. We are now at the beginning of June, the Antarctic field season (which corresponds to the Antarctic summer, late October to late February) is fast approaching, and decisions have to be made.

This, for me, is where it gets real. Our experiment has suddenly jumped from being something we have planned on paper and in our heads, to something concrete. We don't yet know which of our two experiments (the large one or the small one) we'll be able to run, but we already have to buy part of the equipment, book passage on the ice-breaker that will take us to Antarctica, book space on the over-land transport that will take most of our equipment from the coast to the French/Italian base at Concordia... All this is very, very real!

The Concordia Seismic Experiment - as we have lovingly named it - has gone from residing somewhere in my brain, to being present also in my gut. It's a daunting thing, especially for me, as this will be both my first complete seismic experiment, and my visit to Antarctica.

I've set up this blog partly in order to relieve some of the tension that's building up as we prepare to make this experiment a reality, but also to share the experience with as many people as possible. I hope to convince some of my colleagues working with me on the experiment to participate in writing the blog, and I hope to entice you all to read it and send in your comments.

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