Aircraft support: US ITASE was supported this season primarily by Basler and by Twin Otter for delivery of small items. The Basler provided support for all put-in requirements, fuel caching, and pick up of expended fuel drums. The Basler is a perfect aircraft for traverse support.
Food: Food quality was excellent this season. Luci Pandolfi prepared hot dishes for all three daily meals.
Shelters (Blue Room, Kitchen, Polar Haven): The same Berco mounted shelters available during previous US ITASE traverses were available this season. As reported in previous field reports the Kitchen and Blue Room while adequate for their purpose are far heavier than necessary and both shelters are extremely top heavy.
The Blue Room and Kitchen shelters are attached to Berco sleds by a small number of bolts that have regularly sheared or fallen out. More substantial attachments were requested following the 2006-2007 season, but no repairs were made during the put–in phase of 2007–2008.
Lehman Sleds: Qty two Lehman sleds were provided for the 2006 traverse. As in the past they were used for the heaviest loads (e.g., fuel drums) and served well.
Berco Sleds: Qty three Berco sleds were available for the 2007 traverse. As in the past the Berco sleds did well. The state of the rear hitches turned out to be a major issue in 2006–2007 and we had one failure this season. The rear hitches are designed to fail under excessive stress to save the Berco frames. One Berco rear hitch failed in 2006–2007 after having traveled >8000km. Rear hitches for each Berco were replaced, by US ITASE team members at the start of the 2007–2008 season.
Plastic sleds: Qty three Siglin designed plastic sleds were specially ordered for the 2006–07 traverse. Their intended purpose was to be for light–weight transport (e.g., empty fuel drums and air drop materials). The Siglins turned out to be excellent even for heavier loads (up to 12,000 lbs) once equipped with pallets and draw bar chains attached to the pallets. Although two pallets failed and one Siglin was slightly damaged the concept of plastic sleds proved to be very promising and four heavy–duty plastic sleds equipped with heavy–duty tow bars and rear hitching capability were requested for the 2007 season. The three 2006–07 sleds were upgraded. These sleds are relatively inexpensive compared to Bercos and Lehmans and can be shipped in pieces (although the bolt holes for assembling the sleds in the field should not be pre–drilled since the pieces have different rates of thermal expansion). For this season the Siglins were reinforced structurally. Unfortunately, lightweight carriage bolts were employed and several bolts failed necessitating stops to rip away the structural segments damaged after bolt failure. The design for the structural reinforcement seems to be successful but the quality of materials and repair were inadequate.
Mechanic’s Repairs (prepared by Josh Swanson):
PB should go back to MCM to be torn apart and inspected for cracks. Have a complete full pm done including calibrations of hydraulic pressures and synchronizing of moog units. Inspection for frame cracks and cracks in axles. Bogie wheels removed and bearings inspected, replaced or repacked.
The Challenger 55s need a thorough go through. Leak down test of engine, undercarriage measurements. Track replacement and full fluids change. Batteries are old and working fine but replacement would add reliability if used on traverse again.
Fork Cat has an exhaust leak on the manifold. It has been leaking since I started with ITASE last year. Parts are here and ready to be installed. Didn't install in field due to fear of studs breaking and not being able to get them out with tools here. Decided it best to be done in a warm shop with easy outs and other tools to remove broken studs from head.
Dozer Cat needs a hydraulic cable installed from lever to valve body. It is on hand. Wasn't a priority in field since I changed hoses to a different lever control valve. Due to time restraints it may or may not be done in the field.
Communications: Primary communications this season were made using Iridium phones. HF base stations were used between vehicles and VHF for close heavy equipment use.
Deep Radar: (prepared by B. Welch, St. Olaf College): The radar system was essentially the same as previous years. Some requests for improvements to the radar sled and shelter were made this year:
Suggestions for US ITASE Platform as of 2007 season end:As recommended by J. Swanson (mechanic) we suggest that the PB be returned to McMurdo for inspection and overhaul. The PB worked well for two seasons, but it is a fairly delicate vehicle and prone to fractures that are best inspected and repaired in a warm shop.
Swanson also recommended a complete inspection and overhaul of the two Challenger 55s. To return these vehicles to McMurdo will require considerable effort since the 55 cabs must b e partially deconstructed. If these vehicles are to be used away from stations on future traverses they must be carefully inspected and given significant overhauls. This is well worth the time and cost since the vehicles served their purpose. Ideally mechanics should be deployed to South Pole to conduct inspection/overhaul there allowing these vehicles and their accompanying traverse sleds to remain as complete platforms. To reassemble these platforms requires considerable time, experience and care.
The traverse trains (Lehmans, Bercos with modules) should be left at South Pole intact. They are not the perfect traverse platform, but they are highly functional for certain activities.