Date: 12/21/03
Latitude: 82.01 degrees South
Longitude: 112.57 degrees East
Temperature: −22°C( −8°F)
Wind speed: 18 knots
Wind Chill: −36°C( −32°F)
Wind direction: not given
Elevation: 10,500 feet
Kilometers traveled: 1150

Notes on daily life:
By Dan

Driving, driving, driving…

If the ice sheet can be compared to a frozen ocean then this area is an ocean frozen during a full-on gale! The sastrugi are enormous (over 1m) and extremely hard, this causes the CATs to bump and nosedive constantly. It also leads to a very rough ride inside the modules.

By noon the surface seemed to be improving so we returned the trains to normal configuration and attempted normal travel. The sastrugi are still enormous but the hard surface makes for good speed.

We seem to be in some kind of dune area; the snow surface keeps alternating between extremely smooth and extremely rough, while remaining very hard all the while. The smooth areas last for 2-3 miles and the rough areas last for 4-5 miles. The wind is coming from our right and blowing around lots of surface snow. The blowing snow moves about 6 inches above the ground in constant streams. It is like billions upon billions of invisible snakes slithering over the snow surface at great speed, each one leaving a little wispy snow trail or as if the very ground itself were smoldering and smoke emanating from every little nook and cranny.

There is a huge amount of snow carried by these surface winds. While collecting surface snow samples from fresh drifts, the hole which I excavated had filled in completely by the time it took me to turn around and pick out another sample bag!


Date: 12/22/03
Latitude: 81.74 degrees South
Longitude: 120.74 degrees East
Temperature: −16°C( 3°F)
Wind speed: 0 knots
Wind Chill: −16°C( 3°F)
Wind direction: not given
Elevation: 9,909 feet
Kilometers traveled: 1293

Notes on daily life:
By Dan

Driving, driving, driving…

Making very good progress on very hard surface and still running into occasional massive sastrugi fields. At noon a thick cloud of diamond dust settled down over us and made driving quite an ordeal. The diamond dust is like Antarctic fog; it reduces visibility down to less than 50 feet. It was an eerie feeling to be steering the train in between sastrugi that were over one meter high while having less than 50 feet of warning to do it. Hard sastrugi of the sizes we encountered could quite easily roll a tractor onto its side. Another annoying feature of the thick diamond dust is that it clings to everything and freezes into an icy mat − in this case it froze to the tractor engine air intakes, blocking them and causing the engine to heat up fast. We had to stop every 15 or 20 minutes to scrape the air intakes clean or risk overheating the tractor engines. Coincident with the arrival of the diamond dust, the wind dropped to zero knots and the temperature rose to −16 C, quite warm for these parts − I was almost tempted to take off my top and do a bit of sunbathing (although the sun was obscured by the fog).

Luckily the fog only lasted for 5 hours or so and after that the weather was beautiful. Before the fog had cleared we had a worrying development; the polar pooper fell off its sled at the back of the train!!! It became obvious that we had a crisis on our hands when we could see it on its side being dragged across the snow by a single strap. The structure of the unit itself was fine but everything inside had disappeared, including the seat and all the toilet paper! Andrea and James immediately climbed into the forked CAT and mounted a daring rescue attempt. They drove back along our tracks and searched through the fog for any remains; at 1.3 miles they recovered a single roll of TP, at 2.8 miles a second roll was discovered, then at 3 miles they recovered all the rest of the TP and the seat. Thank goodness the wind had died down!

We arrived at N100/TAMCAMP by 02:00.