Date: December 12 and 13, 2007
Location: East Antarctic Plateau, On the road
Latitude: 87 degrees, 30 minutes, 59.364 seconds South
Longitude: 157 degrees, 10 minutes, 39.252 seconds East
Temperature: −27°C ( −17°F)
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Wind Chill: −40°C (−40°F)
Elevation: 3025 meters (9924 feet)
Kilometers Traveled: 952
Ice Core Drilled: 247 meters
Written by: Nicky

"STUCK" has recently gained prominence as the dirtiest five letter word in our collective ITASE vocabulary. This morning the Fork CAT train had to be pulled out of camp by the Dozer after getting stuck. The reason for this unusual event (it is usually the Dozer train that gets stuck) is that during the previous refueling session the patch of snow in front of the Fork train had been torn up enough to make gaining the necessary traction and momentum impossible. This was our first "stuck" of the day, but it was not our last! During the same shift, I got stuck with the Dozer train four times! One of these times was especially spectacular in that I had allowed the tracks to spin in the snow for so long that the belly of the tractor had become grounded. The Fork CAT began to spin its tracks while trying to pull the Dozer train out. This situation was further complicated by the fact that (being high-centered) the Dozer couldn't back up to unhitch. This conundrum was solved by backing the Forks carefully into the Dozer blade to gently nudge it back far enough to unhitch the train. We then pulled the Dozer free, plowed in the holes left by the spinning tracks, re-hitched the two CATs to the stuck train, then proceeded to pull the train forward to a firmer surface.

My dismal shift was matched with 4 more occurrences of "stuck–i–ness" by Luke before we stopped around 3 am. This was the stopping time necessary for us to be up and about by 12:45 pm, when the plane carrying Sharon was expected. Hourly weather observations began at 4 am and were shared by all four kitchen dwellers right up until the flight was cancelled.

December 13th began for us at 11:30 am with hot breakfast and brain−storming. The topic? Getting stuck of course! Or rather, how not to. We tried switching the tractors; the logic being that the Fork CAT has a wider track base and therefore might be able to withstand the weight distribution of the 'sticky' train better. No dice. At the end of the day we decided that we would move the outhouse sled from the left side of the spreader bar to the middle in hope of balancing out the weight distribution. Again, weather observations began at 4 am and hourly calls were made to MacWeather by the kitchen dwellers throughout the remainder of the night.


Date: December 14, 2007
Location: East Antarctic Plateau, On the road
Latitude: 87 degrees, 39 minutes, 36.36 seconds South
Longitude: 158 degrees, 51 minutes, 0.36 seconds East
Temperature: −26°C ( −15°F)
Wind Speed: 16 knots
Wind Chill: −41°C (−41°F)
Elevation: 3054 meters (10021 feet)
Kilometers Traveled: 963
Ice Core Drilled: 247 meters
Written by: Nicky

Our day began at 11:30 am with breakfast, a message from MacOps saying the Twin Otter flight was delayed (probably until 13:30 when the weather was expected to clear), and moving the outhouse sled. During the time it took to clear the kitchen of breakfast debris, move the outhouse, and get going, we learned that the off–deck time for our Twin Otter flight would most definitely be 13:30, so we should expect the plane around 7:30 pm. We decided to have one driving shift, which would drive until an hour or so before the expected flight arrival. Once stationary, we would call in our coordinates, wait for the plane and then decide whether or not to continue driving. We expected to cover 30K during this time (one full shift) and were decidedly taken aback when we only made it 11K. Clearly, moving the pooper had not worked and to make matters worse the surface was getting even softer than before. It took 3 attempts for the Dozer train to get going, and once it was going its movements were plagued by a series of unexpected stops (STUCK!). Before we knew it, it was time to stop and wait for the Twin Otter. We had to try out another option.

Sharon arrived jubilantly with one last cruise box right around the time expected. She was greeted by a group of curious and excited on–lookers (some boasting welcome signs), all of whom helped to unload her bags and other items from the plane. While the plane was fueled, her things were delivered to her bunk (we are excellent valets) and the empty fuel drums were staged to load onto the plane. Upon finishing fueling, the Twin Otter dashed away into the sky and we all breathed a collective sigh. That was our last plane of the season.

So, moving the outhouse sled was not the answer. We decided that we would rearrange the Dozer train into single long line of sleds instead of the two pronged arrangement it currently held. This was a considerably harder task than it sounds. The former fuel sled (now home to CAT parts and mechanics tool boxes) and the science sled had to have every single piece of cargo removed. Prior to cargo removal, the 'spaghetti' of cargo straps had to be undone. These activities were undertaken by all with great gusto, as we believed this option was certainly the answer we had been looking for. Once the sleds were clear of cargo, they were shoveled off. Giant tow straps were laid out end to end along each Siglin sled and adjusted to the optimal towing length. Finally, the sleds were all hitched together and taken for a test ride (minus the 4000–5000 pounds of ice cores and science equipment plus the outhouse sled – weight unknown, let's call it heavy). The test ride was a great success, the train turned like a dream despite its length! We loaded the ice cores and science equipment onto the sleds, armed them with a brand new web of tightly wrenched cargo straps and considered the time. The hour was approaching 1 am, so, riding on the high of our tentative success and the excitement over Sharon's arrival, we decided to call it quits. We would rise the next morning, hitch up the outhouse sled and go.