From Svea to Wasa

Snowmobile pulling an ark in Antarctica
Finally, we can drive on vast landscapes of fresh snow. Photo: Karna Johansson.

Text by: Karna Johansson, doctor at the DML 2023/24 expedition

When we landed at our Swedish research station, Wasa, at the beginning of the season, it felt like coming home, even though I had never been there. Because they had talked, looked at pictures and looked forward to getting there. The feeling when we arrived at Svea was similar. This is partly because we heard much about this stoic Swedish outpost in Heimefrontfjella. Partly because we waited out bad weather in the arks for two days and were in a very good mood when we could set course over the snow-dusted, glistening expanses.

Svea was built in the 1987-88 season, scenically placed on the edge of a large valley surrounded by mighty nunataks. For Håkan and Arjen, it was a fond reunion; they were both there in the late 80s when Svea was built. They could tell she was the same, except the blue-yellow colours had faded slightly. Some things they left there were still there. However, the snowdrift at the gate had grown enormous, and likewise, the valley and surrounding glaciers were covered with much more snow than 35 years ago.

If Wasa is like a well-equipped mountain cabin, Svea is more like an emergency cabin. However, she has everything you need if you need to spend a few summer weeks in Antarctica. We went through the stored supplies, brushed off the roof's solar cells, and ate our lunch while enjoying the view. And then we were done. Our field trip's last stop was completed, and we decided to head home towards Wasa.

It was a long drive with an overnight stay out in the open. The camp was packed up and down with rarely seen rapidity. We joked that it was stupid to put the toilet tent on the other side of the trail; what if someone comes driving when you get up in the middle of the night? But towards the end of Friday afternoon, we drove into a freshly shovelled yard and were met by happy shouts and hugs from our comrades.

A little dazed, we are now readjusting to life at Wasa. Tells stories and shows pictures. Learn how to find after all refurnishings in containers and housing modules. Indescribably enjoying a hot shower and hair wash after three weeks of fieldwork. However, it was challenging to sleep indoors again, and several of us chose to go outside and lie down in the cold and wind, softly cuddled by our sleeping bags.

Other tasks are now pending. Rock samples must be sorted, and the material must be repaired and repacked. We will supplement the sampling in the local area and maybe even start planning for next year's trips. But that, as they say, is another story.

Expedition participants at the station Svea.
First and last tracks in the snow to Svea this season! Photo: Karna Johansson.
View from the Svea station in Antarctica.
Svea, the station with the magical view. Håkan Grudd states that the snow drift he is standing on did not exist 35 years ago. Otherwise, most things are the same. Photo: Karna Johansson.
A stop with snowmobiles in Antarctica.
A final stop where we can see Wasa up on the mountain Basen. A much-needed shower, indoor standing height and real coffee are soon expected! Photo: Karna Johansson.
Plaque on the door to Svea
Plaque on the door to Svea. Photo: Karna Johansson.
Frozen handle
After two days of life in the Ark, mainly due to very poor visibility, we wake up to bright sunshine. Photo: Karna Johansson.

Publishing date: 29 Jan 2024