Date: December 3, 2007
Location: East Antarctic Plateau, On the road
Latitude: 84 degrees, 52 minutes, 58.044 seconds South
Longitude: 142 degrees, 50 minutes, 56.328 seconds East
Temperature: −30°C ( −22°F)
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Wind Chill: −41°C (−42°F)
Elevation: 2750 meters (9022 feet)
Kilometers Traveled: 622
Ice Core Drilled: 185 meters
Written by: Nicky

Today we begin our drive towards site 3 and the half way mark.  It seems like the season is flying by!  Typically, driving is pretty uneventful, but today we have a bit of hard luck.  As we pull away Brian’s transmitter sled detaches from the main sled and we have to stop so he can look for new rope and reattach it. 

In addition to this, we have phantom vehicle problems; you know the kind I’m talking about.  Like when you take your car to the mechanic because its clunking, but it just won’t clunk for the mechanic?  Upon restarting from this stop, Paul radioed back to say that the PB wouldn’t idle down.  The RPMs would increase, but not decrease.  Josh requested that he drive back to our position and by the time he arrived, the problem had stopped.  Later, during the next shift, I notice that I was kicking up a lot more snow than usual and that much to my chagrin the dozer blade was scraping the ground.  I raised it up and 10 minutes later it was scraping again!!  I radioed a request for the train to stop, Josh drove the PB back to check out the dozer hydraulics and upon his arrival (just as with the PB) the problem had mysteriously stopped and it has not happened since.  Frustrating as it is, this is my theory, Joshua Swanson is such an awesome mechanic that he just looks at things and they’re fixed. 

As if detaching sleds and phantom mechanical errors weren’t enough, we had one more event (this one will seem quite familiar).  The bolts on the back of the old Siglin food sled sheared off, just as their counterparts on the front of the old fuel sled had.  Fortunately, this was a much quicker fix than last time and we were only waylaid for about an hour.  All in all, we drove 60K along the original traverse route and then deviated another 20K off the route (perpendicular to the dominant sastrugi direction – very bumpy!) to pick up our fuel and cruise box.  Here, spirits and humor intact, we broke for camp and a little rest in preparation for another long day of driving.


Date: December 4, 2007
Location: East Antarctic Plateau, On the road
Latitude: 85 degrees, 30 minutes, 53.352 seconds South
Longitude: 144 degrees, 44 minutes, 53.556 seconds East
Temperature: −29°C ( −20°F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots
Wind Chill: −38°C (−37°F)
Elevation: 2819 meters (9249 feet)
Kilometers Traveled: 712
Ice Core Drilled: 185 meters
Written by: Dan D.

As is the nature of this traverse, we spend many long days driving across vast snowy landscapes in order to get where we need to go. The long hours trundling along at ~5mph can be quite a shock to the system, especially if you are new to the whole thing. However, our ‘traverse first-timers’ seem to be settling in like pro’s, at this point we have all got the driving routine down to a fine art. We have two driving teams and each team drives for ~5 hours/three waypoints/~30km before changing shifts. The waypoints are pre-programmed into the GPS units fitted to each vehicle and the distance between each waypoint is approximately 10km. We stop at every waypoint to do a safety check and allow travelers to use the toilet (if nature calls). The vehicles are refueled after 30km and it takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive 10km. If you factor in all the stops and the refueling, it takes ~5 hours to travel three waypoints.

The above description is an ideal driving situation, but things can, and do, go wrong. For example, the other day one of our Siglin sleds started to break apart. Luckily, Mike’s keen eyes spotted ruts in the snow in place of the usual smooth tracks and a disaster was avoided. We had to call the whole traverse to a stop, but in the end Josh and Luke had the sled fixed–up and ready to roll in less than an hour! Sometimes breakdowns take a lot longer to fix, but this time we were lucky and everyone was glad to be rolling again.

As I mentioned previously, the long hours bumping over the plateau can be quite tiring on the body. While the vehicles are moving between drill sites there is no real good way to stretch and get exercise until now! Inspired by Karen Joyce, a McMurdo summer resident who runs several different fitness classes on the base, I modified one of her fitness classes (called Guts ‘n’ Butts) for use while traversing. It is called “Guts ‘n’ Butts in a Bunk”. Considering that a bunk is only 6–feet long, 2.5–feet wide, and 2–feet high, getting a full workout is quite a feat! Doing the exercises while the train is moving helps with your balance as well. It may sound a little cramped, but after the full workout one feels 100% better. I am now on a mission to get the whole team into the “Guts ‘n’ Butts in a Bunk” routine.