April 27th, 2016 | A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

One year in the life of a Yanmar employee on the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition

Do you know about Yanmar’s undertakings at the Showa Station, in Antarctica? The following is a photographic report from the ground.

Do you know about the operations taking place at the Showa Station, situated in the Antarctic Circle? As one of Japan’s scientific research stations, the Showa Station has roughly 30 personnel stationed at all times working on research across various fields, including climatic, geological, and biological research. The research data is instrumental in understanding the earth’s current conditions in addition to predicting changes.

In addition to specialist researchers, the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) comprises of members responsible for a diverse range of duties, including the maintenance of equipment, and dietary and medical support. Yanmar’s employee is one such member. The powering up of the Showa Station with Yanmar 6RL-T engines in 1983 was the reason for an engineer from Yanmar’s Power Solution Business first going on a winter expedition in the Antarctic and Yanmar’s continued participation more than 30 years on.

Yanmar’s appointed employee is responsible for managing fuel for the generators, piping and wiring maintenance, and preempting any issues with the generators. As generator produced electricity and heat, supplies not only research facilities and equipment, but also hot water systems, heaters and lighting, power failure could be dangerous for all members. On that level, if trouble were to occur, as the only engine specialist on hand, there is a lot of pressure to resolve the issue swiftly. It’s not an easy job.

Yanmar’s Official Facebook page has been providing reports on the Showa Station in Antarctica since October 2012. In providing insights into the strenuous day-to-day living and operations in the Antarctic we publicized reports once to twice monthly from the ground. This time around, with the 56th JARE finished up and on their way home in March 2016, we compiled one year of written reports from one of the 56th JARE members, Yusuke Takagi of the Power Solution Business. Let’s take a look at Yanmar’s involvement at the Showa Station, in Antarctica.

April to June. The 56th expedition begins - the life of a new expedition member

■The first task is to determine the snow depth

Yusuke Takagi departs Japan aboard the 56th expedition. Via Australia, the expedition sails into the Antarctic Circle, reaching Showa Station on December 24, 2014.
After roughly two months spent passing over the operations, the 55th expedition prepares to return home to Japan and Yusuke Takagi and the 56th expedition team begin their one year post.

See the Facebook posting here

The first thing Yasuke is shown is the strange light which shoots from the station straight up into the Antarctic night sky.

Named the Micropulse Lidar (MPL), this light is used to determine snow height. While the beam is not visible even in pitch darkness, when it snows light reflected off snowflakes makes the beam become visible in the same manner as light is visible when it is reflected off snowflakes in photographs.

Being able to determine snow levels up to heights of 60 kilometers, this data is then used to predict climatic changes.

See the Facebook posting here

■Seasonal events add excitement to the monotonicity of everyday life.

May 5, even at Showa Station, celebrations for the Japanese Boys Festival are held, with carp-shaped wind socks and traditional samurai helmets. While the hanging of the carp-shaped wind socks was short-lived, due to bad weather, the carps swam powerfully through the Antarctic sky.

See the Facebook posting here

A BBQ adds a refreshing change from the regular meals had in the dining quarters.

However, with outside temperatures of minus 20 degrees to contend with, the BBQ was enjoyed in the comfort of the ventilation-system equipped facility which utilizes natural energy for climate control. Even when keeping the same company for meals, a change of scenery ignites lively conversations. After such a long-stretch out on post, such an event was very much needed.

See the Facebook posting here

July to September. Once in a year festival, when deep into operations during winter

■A mid-winter festival to help battle past the severe peak of the Antarctic winter.

With the beginning of June comes the start of the polar night period, unconceivable to most, when the sun doesn’t rise for days on end.

Members organize a 5 day long ‘mid-winter festival’ to raise spirits during an otherwise dark and bleak winter. The photograph is of a snowball fight. Erecting a shelter in the camp grounds, for an all-out snowball fight.

The highlight of the ‘mid-winter festival’ was the 2 day-long winter feast arranged for the members. The 56th expedition included 2 professional chefs, one of who was a French born chef and the other trained in Japanese cuisine. For two days everyone dressed in formal wear and indulged on fine Japanese cuisine on day one, followed by a full French course on the final day.

See the Facebook posting here

■Working outside in the polar winter — transport route construction and wind power generation

Yanmar’s member participates in outside operations, on top of engine maintenance.

One example is the construction of a transport route to the Langhovde coastal area located about 30 kilometers from the Showa Station. Langhovde is a research station reached by driving out across the glacier.

While driving, one can estimate the thickness of ice shelf, but care must be taken to avoid dangers such as cracks in the ice running up the middle of the road or mountain-like pressure-ridges caused by the ice shelves pressing against one another.

See the Facebook posting here

While Showa Station utilizes natural energy, Yusuke was fascinated by the uniquely shaped wind power energy system.

While regular wind power systems use propeller shaped turbines, the one at Showa Station features columnar turbines. With speeds of 40m/s during blizzards, the turbines are built durable to withstand strong winds.

See the Facebook posting here

October to December. Spring in the South Pole - field research is penguin research

■With the approach of the penguin breeding season, research of breeding locations and penguin numbers get underway

The long winter draws to an end and the Antarctic spring arrives. With spring, annual researching of the Adelie penguins begins as they return to raise their young in the surrounding areas of Showa Station.

As the Adelie penguins habitually return every year to their birthplace to raise their young, looking into the geological layers of this area, provides an understanding into the ancient ecology of the area.

The penguins’ nesting area is known as a rookery. The small stones scattered in the photograph are gathered together by the penguins so that the eggs won’t roll away or become chilled by melting snow. Layer upon layer of history.

See the Facebook posting here

In November, as penguins return to nest, the expedition’s researchers’ activities focus around surveying penguin numbers and the creation of a penguin census.

Prior to returning to the rookery, the penguins reside along the northern Antarctic coastline, however the exact location where they form pairs for breeding is still not known.

Penguins gazing at the ocean nearby their rookery. Taking these photos, Yusuke’s imagination runs away on him as he begins to wonder if the penguin has a wife waiting for him or perhaps his lover left him.

See the Facebook posting here

■Japan-orientated initiatives and collaborative operations with other research stations from around the globe.

The photograph is of “Ice Operation”. In this picture they have broken down piles of ice from an iceberg to take back home with them. The extracted ice is then used in an Antarctic study center in Japan to promote knowledge and awareness of the station’s activities.

Differentiating from regular ice, the Antarctic ice is formed from compressed snow, causing large quantities of air bubbles to be trapped inside. As these trapped bubbles in the ice are essentially pockets of air compressed together with snow, analyzing ice extracted from great depths provides researchers with an understanding of the atmospheric constituents from many millions of years ago.

See the Facebook posting here

Moving from Novolazarevskaya Station to further remote stations, one supply of fuel is not enough. As a result, other stations along the way help with refueling when en route. Of course, the Showa Station has also been instrumental in building airstrips on the ice shelf, in addition to providing support for refueling.

Yusuke dealt with 3 landings during his one year expedition. One time after responding to an incoming Russian plane in the middle of the night, he received fresh vegetables from the members on board.

The next evening they all enjoyed salad made from the fresh vegetables.

See the Facebook posting here

January to February. Arrival of the 57th expedition team - the final 2 months in the Antarctic

■The 57th expedition arrived safely.

Yusuke’s time in the Antarctica draws to a close.
Except for the 25 members of the 56th expedition, it’s been a good while since speaking to anyone else. Spirits reach a maximum high.

Also arriving on the 57th expedition was Yusuke’s successor in charge of the power generation systems, Takaaki Ishikawa. The end comes into sight for the Antarctic mission.

See the Facebook posting here

■With the completion of the work for the year, they safely head home

The recently arrived 57th expedition gets into the full swing of operations. Replacing the generator with aid from the diesel specialists aboard the Antarctic research liner, “Shirase,” which they arrived on. From this time on, “Shirase” will now include female staff, and as a result one of the staff on the “Shirase” that gave a helping hand was female. Diversity is also a big thing these days in Antarctica’s research stations too.

And with that, Takaaki’s succession is complete. After 14 months passing, Yusuke’s time in the Antarctic draws to a close.

See the Facebook posting here

The reports from Yanmar’s Power Solution Business’s Yusuke Takagi on the 56th JARE are compiled and sent off. While the entirety of the operations could not be relayed, the words here aim to provide readers with but a window of understanding into the extraordinary Antarctic operations.

In just the same way as Yusuke’s, the 57th JARE experience lived out by Takaaki Ishikawa of the Power Solution Business has been publicized on Yanmar’s official Facebook page. For readers who enjoyed this report, please check out Takaaki’s Report on Facebook.

Keep watching for upcoming articles by Y MEDIA on the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE).