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Profile of Timo Palo

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10/09/2007

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Profile of Timo Palo

Profile of Timo Palo

He is in charge of the weather mast and tethered balloon to sound the atmosphere. He represents the DAMOCLES programme on board.

When did you arrive on Tara? What is you role aboard? When will you be leaving?

I arrived on Tara in April 2007 to represent one of the two Damocles scientists on board for the summer season. I am a meteorologist who studies main climate characteristics related to the atmosphere. On this expedition I have mostly accomplished atmosphere sounding experiments while taking care of all the other atmosphere measurement equipment. I leave at the end of the summer season in September when the next rotation will take place.

How is the life different between summer and winter on a polar base? What are the most difficult / easiest things for you?

Although I have not experienced the winter season, I think there is quite a big difference. In fact it is like day and night. Off course sunlight is at the basis of it all. When we are talking about the Arctic there are different weather patterns and ice conditions between these two seasons. During the winter, the atmosphere is more stable. Ice flow is more compact, with not so many openings. In summer, cyclonic activity is more common, weather conditions are unstable with increased cloudiness, lots of openings and melt ponds and temperatures are around zero with very humid air.

Movement on the ice can be restricted in both seasons. In summer, the leads and melt ponds are the main obstacles and in winter, the darkness sets some restrictions due to safety reasons. Winter with its low temperatures and strong winds always requires protecting ones body against frostbites. Complete darkness with harsh conditions can be hard psychologically to withstand. Eyesight is the most important sense for Homo sapiens. This is why visibility conditions can have mental effects on man.
Summer is a melting season and it’s really difficult to attach something into ice. However it starts to freeze again in the winter. Many activities in cold winter conditions can take several times more time than in normal conditions. Most likely in winter, one needs to increase ones food intake for energy purposes.
The most difficult thing for me is to reconcile the fact that I cannot stay here for the winter. Personally, I prefer winter. To really taste polar life, you have to be there in winter. It is the season that best describes these areas as it is at that time that there are the main differences with the rest of the world. It’s going be really hard to leave all of this after these months and return back to “real” life.

To answer on “easiest things”, I think that there are no easiest things or small details in polar conditions. Everything you do requires your full attention and dedication to achieve the best result to get closer to our goal at each step of the project. Off course there can be moments when one’s concentration falters.

What does your job involve? Describe a typical day.

My job involves mainly of taking care of the atmosphere science program. A typical day for me starts with cleaning radiometers from condensation. Then I pack my sounding equipment, taking batteries, which have been recharged the day before and walk out into my white tent. Preparations for the next experiment takes quite a lot time, starting with the regenerating process of sensors, taking out the winch and balloon and finishing with the balloon refilling, sensors compasses calibrating etc. The time it takes for the sounding process can vary a lot due to weather conditions and atmosphere stratification. Sometimes half of day, sometimes even a whole day. I usually finish my day by checking that all the other atmosphere measurement equipment deployed on ice is working well and that the data can be recorded in computer.

What motivated you to join Tara?

Actually I didn’t have to seek for motivation in order to join the Tara expedition because I have been motivated for this kind of life since I was a little boy. As far as I can remember, I have always loved winter with its snow, cold and calm nature. From this childhood love my passion grew for Polar Regions, for these great adventures and explorations. I started to read books about historical explorations and great men, to collect material from every kind of source in order to learn more and more on how to survive here. Imagining these expeditions, I dreamed that a day would come when I would be out on my own expedition. This day arrived earlier than I dared to expect it. I had planned my first expedition for 2008. It was a pleasant surprise for me to come up here a year ahead. I remember clearly the day when I left on board of the icebreaker last year and Tara started on her great drift. She was in the middle of ice, in the middle of immensity with that light on the horizon. I am not ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes – It was such a breathtaking picture and I so much wanted to remain there. I didn’t’ know then what the future had in store for me! Finally I received that offer and I was so excited. I have been fascinated with polar areas for so long, I will never get tired of admiring this wonderful edge of our planet. I respect these regions and carry them deeply in my heart. I love great challenges. For me, the Tara expedition is a great platform to go on in future.

In your eyes, what is the main objective of the expedition?

Looking at the Tara expedition and its conception I see a great achievement of humankind. I respect these types of expeditions where sportive enthusiasm and challenge is joined with high value science. In addition, Tara is valuable in that it repeats the historical Fram expedition. Tara sets a new milestone in polar history and I am happy to be a witness of that.

Scientific purpose is highly valued. This is the main goal. It gives us new valuable information about processes which affects our entire planet. Climate is part of our everyday life. Considering global climate change, the Tara expedition provides us with data which can help to look into future. It helps us understand better in which direction we are heading.
And after all I think Tara is like a messenger who tells us a story – story about the wonderful white world and fragile wildlife there, which needs our care and that we need to. It provides us with knowledge and raises our awareness on why we should care! Like Fridtjof Nansen said:”…and look! Far away there all over the fog and blizzard a new world arises.” I hope that the next generation can see this “new world” as well.
Tara motto says, this expedition is “A commitment to our planet”…I believe that it is so.

Tara 2006-2007

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