In the scientific but on some nights we even had a tropical temperature of 85°F., which was needed to defrost the perspex dome where the camera which automatically photographed the aurorae australes was housed. It was really quite a sight to see the met. men on the night watch working stripped to the waist in this but interpreting the information on atmospheric conditions transmitted by the radiosonde. But when they emerged into the night to make their outside observations, they frequently experienced a drop in temperature of 125°F., as the temperature in winter out of doors was often 70°F. below freezing-point.
Our cuisine was excellent, thanks to our catering officer, who had forgotten nothing and who, above all, made an innovation by supplying us with deep-frozen provisions, so that we had fresh meat and vegetables once a week. This frozen food stayed good for fourteen months in a big cellar scooped out of the ice: we had at our disposal the biggest refrigerator in the world!
We took turns at doing the housekeeping for the day. This particular job consisted of laying the table, getting some snow and making it dissolve into water in a retort heated by the exhaust gases of the generators, cleaning our quarters and doing the washing-up, emptying the rubbish, and so on. You can be sure we shall never let on to our wives how skilful we became in these arts!
Though living conditions inside the camp were comfortable, it was another matter out of doors. In the first place there was the blizzard which in some months howled for two days out of three; and there was also the snowing up of the camp, which meant that we had to keep on clearing the snow away to reach the equipment stored outside. If we ever had to choose a new coat-of-arms for our expedition, I think we would unanimously decide on a pair of crossed snow-shovels, as this was the implement we handled most during all our time in the Antarctic. Furthermore, by one of the laws of universal vexation well known down there, it was enough for us to start digging our equipment out of the snow for the blizzard to get up and fill the hole as quickly as we dug it.
October 1, 1958, marked the transition to more intensive activity out of doors. The aeroplane and the helicopter came out of their shelters and the vehicles were made ready for the summer exploration. We organized several expeditions of a few days to the coast. Previously, in March, we had made a reconnaissance trip of three weeks to the mountains which were situated 125 miles to the south of our base; we went off again at the end of October, for two months with nine men, to explore this range more systematically.
The two dog-teams and their leaders undertook the geological survey. They brought back hundreds of pounds of rock samples, from intrusive granite and diorite, gneiss and magmatites, granitic and pegmatitic veins.
The men of the motorized column devoted themselves to the measurement of geomagnetism and especially to the determination of astronomical positions. The aeroplane took aerial photographs of the coast and of the mountains. In this way two exact maps of the region would be completed on our return to Belgium, a 1 : 200,000 map of the coast and a 1 :50,000 map of the mountains.