CECs, Centro de Estudios Científicos (Center for Scientific Studies) is a private, non-profit corporation, devoted to the development, promotion and diffusion of scientific research. CECs was founded in 1984 as the Center for Scientific Studies of Santiago and has since been directed by physicist Claudio Bunster.

“If you plan to make a voyage of discovery, choose a ship of small draught”
Captain James Cook rejecting the large ships offered by the Admiralty for the search of a new continent.
Antarctic Expedition 2017 PDF Print E-mail

December 13, 2017


It's clear! Our patience has been rewarded with good conditions so we can go to work: the temperature will range between -19°C and -23°C, the wind is gentle, between 7 and 10 knots. Compared to yesterday, these weather conditions should be seen as an invitation to explore.


sistema de radar ready to go5



We planned an intense day to make the most of this opportunity In the morning we measured beacons installed in previous years, they displayed an accumulation of 40 cm of snow during the year. In the afternoon, and after adjusting the snowmobile radar, we were able to measure for 8 continuous hours, covering an area of 80 km near the southern tip of the Sub-glacial CECs Lake. The whole operation concluded at around 11 p.m. Back in our mobile station, we had a big dinner and went to sleep exhausted.



December 12, 2017


Today we woke up to face the fury of the white continent. The weather conditions are extreme; very strong continuous winds, heavy snow with minimal visibility. For safety reasons, this white wind made it completely inadvisable to go and take the planned measurements. We decided to stay in the comfort of our mobile station analyzing data and resting. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if our luck improves.


andy and rodrigo at CECs1 module



December 11, 2017


Today we woke up on the CECs sub-glacial lake and started building our base. The weather conditions seemed auspicious: with partial clouds and moderate southern winds. After digging and clearing enough snow, we were able to retrieve the batteries and sensors from the weather station, and then reassemble it. It was once again 100% operative, measuring and transmitting online. We tried to do the same with the GPS station, but the receiver was dead due to low temperatures, so it will need to be repaired, hopefully we can, since it’s not easy to have spare parts sent to this part of the planet.


At the same time, we are processing the information collected during the journey and calibrating our ice penetration radars, detecting and filtering some "noises" (interference) to improve its sharpness. We are excited to begin our radar measurements as soon as possible and test our new instruments.


Even though weather conditions worsened during the afternoon, we went out in search of the 10 beacons we left last year. After a few hours of hard work and good luck we found them all! A very good sign, if you consider that they were 30 cm. deep under the snow, due to the high accumulation during last year. Now, we will be able to measure with extraordinary precision the ice displacement and the area’s mass balance.


Finally, we had to postpone our work because the wind chill factor reached -35°C, with winds that had gone from moderate to strong, with gusts of 8 to 10 meters per second. Regardless, we were very satisfied with our our first day.



Sunday, December 10, 2017


We finally arrived at the CECs Sub-glacial Lake at midday after traveling 250 km. Taking measurements continuously.


At our CECs Sub-glacial Lake base-camp, we found the weather station covered with ice and the GPS station 23 cm below the surface of the snow. The Chilean and CECs flags we left last year, were still at the top of the mast but torn by the strong winds.





December 8 and 9, 2017


We slowly persevered in our journey, taking measurements interruptedly on the plateau. Despite the good weather, the fresh snow remained very soft. In complex areas, on several occasions we had to disconnect the convoy and move each module by itself. Faced with soft snow, we needed to be very careful. Any error or attempt to force the gear may result in damage to the tractor or modules and their skids. In any case, such a failure would be extremely difficult in the solitude of the white continent.  





Thursday December 7, 2017


We began our journey towards the CECs Lake, the convoy included, the "pisten bully" tractor, the cooking and lodging module, the fuel module, snowmobiles and the scientific module. Our convoy’s lead driver was "Eddy" from New Zealand, accompanied by Andy, in charge of logistics. The trip took about 12 hours to the base of the Hewette pass, the snow was very fresh so we had to disconnect the convoy so that our "pisten bully" tractor could move the modules one by one.




We took a new route this time, because the one used in previous years had many exposed cracks, which made it very unsafe. We disconnected the convoy once again so the "pisten" could carry each module to "the plateau". It all came out very well, with no incidents to report. We visualized and measured with radars throughout the trip. Andy Uribe visualized the measurements in real time with three screens, the first one showed the track (GPS) and meteorological information. The second, screen reviewed the two radars’ data (RAS and FMCW) and the third screen was to entertain guests with videos, music and movies.




December 5 and 6, 2017


We continued with logistic preparations at Union camp. We have invested a good deal of time developing radar testing by making the new ones; brought especially for the occasion, work with those already installed. These will be especially useful for the measurements that we will take at the CECs Sub-glacial Lake. With ALE we have reviewed and fine-tuned all the route details and preparations for the journey. Safety and crack monitoring of Union Glacier towards Ellsworth Ranges, has also been reviewed.





Monday, December 4, 2017


After a peaceful flight from Punta Arenas, we arrived at Union Glacier in the "luchin" (Ilyushin Il-76) of ALE. The camp was full with activities, tractors moved in an orderly effort to coordinate the place logistics, while the Twin Otter pilots prepared their flight plans. Many languages could be heard among the different explorer groups, but in all of them the same spirit and enthusiasm for exploration was noticeable. We quickly greeted some European climbers on their way to Mount Vinson, as well as a group of Chinese who were on their way to the emperor penguin colonies and a Colombian-Venezuelan team on their first visit to these latitudes.




We headed to our mobile station, CECs 1. Everything was in perfect condition, after ALE repaired the heating, we installed and checked all the equipment, the weather station, the GPS station and other measuring sensors. The feeling of travelling halfway across the frozen continent to our "home" in Antarctica is comforting. It allows us to quickly "tune up" all our scientific instruments and assemble our caravan in a matter of days.