2006 – 2007 US ITASE Field Report – Page 4


US ITASE Phase 2 benefited from some changes introduced by Raytheon:

  1. Siglin sleds: RPSC suggested the use of 10 x 20 Siglin (plastic) sleds. These sleds have apparently been in use in the Arctic for decades. Tow bar load tests conducted at Taylor Dome prior to traverse departure suggest essentially no draw bar load for weights as high as 10,000 lbs. These relatively friction-free sleds offer great advantages over sleds that weigh as much as the loads carried and that exert notable draw bar forces. US ITASE highly recommends the use of plastic sleds with the caveat that the sleds designed by Siglin are significantly lighter weight plastic than those typically used in the Arctic. Because of the relatively light–grade plastic, we reinforced the sleds with Air Force pallets in order to carry heavy loads. In the future, if additional plastic sleds are ordered, they should be designed and the design reviewed prior to purchase by people competent to determine the structural integrity for the planned mission for the sleds. While the Siglin sleds are a move in the right direction, the design of the existing sleds does not match the required mission for which they are currently being used. We understand that the Siglins were purchased to haul light loads and their mission was changed due to the unexpected condition of the Bercos, the desire to reduce the stresses on the Bercos and the desire to improve the sled train performance from passed seasons.
  2. Electric heaters: During the LGT traverse electric heaters were used in traverse shelters rather than the original propane heaters supplied to Phase 1 US ITASE. Despite concerns raised during Phase 1 US ITASE concerning the safety of propane heaters they were not exchanged for electric heaters until LGT. Although the electric heaters are less fuel efficient, they are significantly safer and reduce the amount of mixed fuels needed on traverse.


NSF allowed US ITASE, for the first time, a budget, to be spent by RPSC, for purposes of refurbishing and changing the US ITASE platform. This concept was excellent and would have allowed US ITASE the ability to make experienced decisions concerning the field platform they were to use during the 2006 – 07 season. However, the carry–through by RPSC on the allocation of this budget by US ITASE was at best minimal. To avoid this situation in the future RPSC and US ITASE must have more substantive communications. The US ITASE platform has evolved over several years, and there is little that can substitute for the field experience gained by US ITASE platform users.

Planning meetings previously held at RPSC in Denver were not entirely satisfactory because they included RPSC staff with little knowledge of the platform. RPSC is, however, routinely invited and has attended US ITASE logistics planning meetings such as the annual WAIS and associated US ITASE 2006–07 planning meeting in Virginia in Fall 2005. Some progress in RPSC–US ITASE communications resulted from this meeting, but clearly not enough. Numerous changes of the RPSC POC for US ITASE and the stretching out of planning over two years combined with the expectation that at the very least, the US ITASE platform would be in as good shape as when it was left at South Pole in 2003, probably contributed to the view that US ITASE was indeed, in good shape and that additional formal planning meetings were not necessary.

A post–season planning/critique meeting including NSF, the US ITASE RPSC POC, and US ITASE PIs is essential to identify problems and explore solutions that could prevent, or at least minimize the problems encountered during future seasons. We propose that such a meeting be scheduled for late April or early May 2007 and that at that meeting both the generic SIP and a specific set of US ITASE logistic requirements be established. Once requirements are established and agreed upon by NSF, RPSC and PIs it is essential that the RPSC POC report regularly and responsively to US ITASE concerning progress toward meeting these requirements. Further it is essential that the RPSC POC also be available in McMurdo throughout the 2007 – 08 field season and that this person visit the US ITASE platform for several days at the onset of the season in order to gain first hand understanding of field conditions related to the 2007–08 season.

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