Date:   December 20, 2006
Latitude:   76 degrees, 46 minutes South
Longitude:   153 degrees, 22 minutes East
Temperature:  −-23°C (−9°F)
Wind Speed:  calm
Wind Chill:  −23°C (−9°F)
Elevation:  2,392 meters (7,848 feet)
Written by:  Joe
Kilometers Traveled 130
Meters of core drilled: 240

Notes on daily life

Yesterday, we were expecting the replacement parts for the fork Cat’s hydraulic rams to arrive, but due to adverse weather conditions back in McMurdo, no planes were able to take off.  The plane was rescheduled to arrive here at 10:30 this morning, but when we woke up, we found that a dense fog had settled into camp. The plane was once again rescheduled, this time for 1 o’clock in the afternoon. 

In the meantime Mike, Andrei, Dan D. and I headed back out to the drill site for one final day of drilling.  We had originally planned to drill a 50 m core at this site, but due to all the delays we decided to just keep on drilling and gather as much ice core as we could.  By the end of the day we had collected 97.5 m of core, which is a 500+ year climate record! 

After lunch, the twin otter arrived as planned with replacement parts for the fork Cat’s damaged hydraulic rams.  Josh and Rick quickly completed the repair.  A replacement ram was not available as it is a specialty part that is not kept in stock on base; so two pieces of heavy metal tubing were fabricated in town according to Rick’s specifications.  They are designed to keep the fork off the ground so that we can continue driving, but the normal use of the fork to lift things up and down has been terminated for the time being.  We will have to make do for the remainder of the traverse without the forks. 

With the Pisten Bully back in action, Gordon and Steve went out to complete some radar traces and GPS work around the site.  They brought back news reports of very large (3–4 foot high) sastrugi, which are the equivalent of sand dunes made out of blowing snow, about 5 km from camp.  This is in the direction that we will be traveling tomorrow, so hopefully it won’t be too rough.  Sastrugi can be very solid, much like concrete, a bit like driving over huge speed bumps.  Stay tuned for further reports!

Date:   December 21, 2006
Latitude:   78 degrees, 3 minutes South
Longitude:   152 degrees, 39 minutes, 32 seconds East
Temperature:  −22°C (−8°F)
Wind Speed:   12 knots
Wind Chill:  −34°C (−28°F)
Elevation:  2,232 meters (7,320 feet)
Written by:  Lora
Meters of core drilled: 240
Kilometers traveled:  165

The morning started with loading of the sleds and getting the trains ready to move. We had to load the ice core sled, the science cargo sled, the 3-inch drill sled and the food sled.  It was windy and cold while we were loading the sleds.  Loading took a few hours and we started moving at 12:25 pm.  Rick and Cathy drove the first train, Cathy was in training. Dan D. was driving the second train and Josh led the way in the Pisten Bully with Dan B. monitoring the crevasse radar.

It was a very bumpy ride.  We are traveling through extensive sastrugi fields.  Sastrugi are wind depositional features that look a little like hills or frozen waves. They can be very hard; the ones we are driving over are no exception. They are also 3 to 4 feet in height!  Dan D. and Rick did an excellent job of driving the trains around the largest bumps, but it is next to impossible not to go over some of them.  When you are riding in the Kitchen and the Blue Room they rock back and forth constantly.  It is best to just lie in your bunk so you don’t get tossed around.  

We had a few problems today because of the sastrugi. When we got to the first waypoint 10 km out, we checked all the sleds. We found that one of the Lehmann sleds was missing a siding side gate.  Josh went back in the Pisten Bully, found the gate and brought it back.  We secured the sleds again and headed out.  On the second leg, Rick high centered the Cat on a monster sastrugi. It took a little while to sort that out. The sastrugi are so hard that they can actually support the weight of a Cat tractor without breaking.  Dan D. used the fork Cat to pull out the dozer Cat and we were on our way again. On the third leg of the trip, Brian’s uninterrupted power supply (UPS) was being a bit temperamental from all the banging and jolting (Brian’s small sled takes quite a beating in the large sastrugi fields). The UPS was causing the power to cut out and his radar computer kept crashing. Each time the computer crashed the train stopped while the computer rebooted.  This did not take long but caused the second train to stop several times.

Our biggest problem of the day came on the fourth and final leg of the trip.  About 5 km into the fourth leg, two fuel barrels fell off the fuel sled.  Rick stopped to check the load and found that the pallet had begun to break, causing additional stress to the Siglin sled.  The Siglin sled, which is made of tough plastic, had cracked.  We could not tell how far the crack went. It was getting late, so we stopped for the night and will examine the problem tomorrow.  Tomorrow we will have to unload all the fuel barrels from the Siglin sled without the fork Cat, and repair the sled.