Activities related to cold environment in Belgium can be divided in three parts:

  • The building of a Polar Research station on Antarctica The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica“
  • The research of paleoenvironmental remnants of ice wedge casts and sand wedge casts
  • The continuation of the archaeological research of the frozen Scythian tombs in the Altai Mountains (Siberia)

Belgium has a long history of scientific activity in Antarctica, dating back to the fi rst over-wintering in 1897, from which the Belgian Antarctic Expedition returned with an important scientifi c harvest: bathymetrical and hydrological soundings, numerous botanical and zoological samples, a large amount of oceanographical, meteorological, geomagnetic, glaciological and geological observation data. Belgium next returned to the Antarctic sixty years later to build the Baudoin Station which operated until 1967. This was part of Belgium‘s celebrating the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year (IGY). In 2004, the Belgian government commissioned the International Polar Foundation (IPF) to design and construct a new research station in Antarctica. The result was a resarch station called „The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica“, which exact coordinates are 71°57‘ S - 23°20‘ E. The base will be maintained and operated by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Offi ce (BELSPO). The IPF will be involved as a privileged partner taking the lead on related public outreach and educational activities.

In 2008 Gunther Ghysels obtained his PhD (supervisor I. Heyse) with a detailed study of relict wedge phenomena in northern Belgium. Air photos revealed ephemeral network systems comparable with ice wedge casts and sand wedge casts in the present-day periglacial regions. Detailed field work and numerous excavations in combination with OSL dating proved the existence of two periglacial complex network systems that were active during the Last Glacial Maximum at about 20.000 BP and later at about 15.000 BP.

Gent University and in particular the Department of Archaelogy (J. Bourgeois, W. Gheyle), the Department of Geography ( R. Goossens, A. De Wulf ) in collaboration with S. Marchenko (University of Alaska Fairbanks) continued to work on the frozen Scythian tombs in the Altai Mountains. A field campaign was organised in the summer of 2008. More information on this project is available in the Belgium report in Frozen Ground #30.

Irénée Heyse (