The third International Polar Year of 1958-1959 heralded the second important phase of the Belgian presence in Antarctica. This year was also known as the International Geophysical Year (IGY), in which not less than sixty-four nations signalled their commitment to study the physical characteristics of the earth.
In that period a massive scientific offensive was launched in all the unexplored areas of the planet. And, because hardly any real, systematic scientific observation had been done in the Antarctic, the South Pole became one of the central objectives.
Twelve nations – of which Belgium – decided to establish more than fifty bases on the Pole with the principle aim of studying our planet’s relationship with the sun. The Americans built the Amundsen-Scott Base at its theoretically most important point : the geographical South Pole, the Russians set up their Vostok Base at its least accessible point, the middle of the East-Antarctic icecap.
On the initiative of Adrien de Gerlache’s son Gaston de Gerlache (captain of the 1897-1899 ‘Belgica’ expedition), the Belgians confirmed their scientific interest in the continent by establishing the King Baudouin Base on a floating ice shelf off the coast of Dronning Maud Land. The Belgian base, established in 1958 by the 1958 Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Gaston de Gerlache was named for Baudouin, King of the Belgians from 1951-1993.
It was built at 70° 25′ South, 24°19′ East on an ice shelf south of Breid Bay on Princess Ragnhild Coast. King Baudouin Base has been reconstructed in 1964 and closed in February 1967.
A new station Princess Elisabeth Station (WAP BEL-Ø2) is now the only Belgian Research Base in Antarctica
Actually King Baudouin Base is fully covered in the snow, but thanks to Roger Vanmarcke, ON4TX who kindly sent us some pics of the Belgian epic, we have some very rare images to share with the readers.
Roger Vanmarcke, ON4TX- OR4TX (here in the pic aside /MM with ON4KR-OR4KR and ON4TZ-OR4TZ) is now 80 and he was one of the seven operators who have alternated their presence in Antarctica and being active from King Baudouin Base from 1958 through 1968 (they were: OR4KR, OR4OR, OR4RW, OR4TX, OR4TZ, OR4VN and OR5RK).
During the first expedition OR4HG was also QRV; OR4HG was ON4HG, Gene Hoogewys, who wrote a book about the Expedition:
“Op de golven van het gevaar” in Dutch, or “Par delà les ondes” in French.
Here aside the Shack at King Baudouin Base (1959-1960) .
Furthermore, Roger recalls – while he was at the base- that there was an Italian scientific Team of the Pisa University. They have been drilling more then 100m deep in the ice.This was in cooperation with Professor Picciotto of the ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles).
Full information here:
Our good friend Ghis ON5NT, went to see ON4TX/OR4TX personally at his Radioclub in Waterloo, near Brussels and Roger was extremely kind to give him the reminds that are part of his life. Pictures are from the 1960 Belgian expedition. (pic on the right: Roger ON4TX and Ghis ON5NT)
We are so grateful to Roger Vanmarcke, ON4TX- OR4TX to share his huge recalls with the Antarctic chasers through WAP.