And so it begins… -Dr. Steffi Lutz

“It feels like it was only yesterday that Lori asked me to join her on her adventure and today I am about to get on the plane to Antarctica. Having been to the cold north several times but never to the south, I didn’t hesitate to say YES!

I am a microbiologist, based at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam near Berlin. Usually I study microbes in places like Greenland and Svalbard. The cool and interesting thing about the work around Princess Elisabeth Station is the more remote and pristine environment, which is less influenced by human contamination. It will be most interesting to compare the samples that we will be collecting in Antarctica with our Arctic samples.

The last two months I went through the sameintense medical testingthat Lori has already described. I passed, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be on my way to Antarctica now. Although it’s been a bit stressful, I feel very lucky to know that I am healthy! I also had to put together my science gear which made up the biggest part of my luggage. Having never been to this place and not knowing what to expect, I packed all kinds of sampling containers and a few extra ones, just in case.It’s important to carefully think about what one will need. Once you are there, you are there – and you can only work with the things that you brought!

After travelling for 24 hours and 10 000 km south from Berlin, I am waiting in Cape Town for our flight to Antarctica this evening. Another 9 hours on the plane and a 7 hour stopover are ahead of us. Feels like I must have been round our planet at least once by now. Our original flight plan had to be changed, because the temperatures at the first stopover are too high and the icerunway is melting… fortunately there is an alternative runway higher up with lower temperatures.  In general I expected it to be much colder, but even at Princess Elisabeth it is only -8 °C at the moment. That’s only slightly colder than back home in Berlin. By the end of our stay the temperatures should drop and I may need all the layers of clothes I packed.

Over the next 4 weeks we will explore the surroundings of Princess Elisabeth station and study the microbes in the snow, ice, rocks, lakes and any other interesting environmentto find out what microbes live there and how active they are in these extreme conditions. Our work will mostly justconsist of collecting and preserving the samples (so they don’t change on the way back home). Most analyses will be done once we are back, it would be impossible to take all the instruments that are needed into the field.

Everything is sorted out now, we picked up some more warm clothing, checked-in our science gear, and had a short briefing. For the next few hours we can enjoy the warm temperatures and sunshine in Cape Town before heading another 4000 km south.”