Big guns set out for the South Pole

Published on 25.11.2007 - Norwegian-US Scientific Traverse of East Antarctica

In conjunction with the Americans at the NSF (National Science Foundation) and the IPY (International Polar Year), the Norwegian Polar Institute has put together a heavy-duty scientific expedition designed to advance our knowledge of the frozen continent.

Whatever the results from this US-Norway expedition, it should mark a turning point in the history of Antarctica, so much of which is still unknown. The reason why is rather simple: this is the first time that scientists and polar researchers divulge on such a wide scale what they are working on. On this particular occasion, they have set up a website that is open to everyone. To access the various dispatches being sent back, all you have to do is register at the site. Better still, the way in which the expedition's work is being presented is far from being scientific gobbledegook. Every day, one of the researchers publishes an account of the day's work, explaining the type of work and research being conducted in language that everyone can understand.

The UAV is a good example of this policy of wanting to explain everything to the widest possible audience. The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is a sort of drone, or a remote-controlled unmanned aircraft. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is capable of carrying sophisticated measuring instruments and can conduct observations of the terrain on a far greater and more accurate scale than people on the ground. The promoters of this adventure have opted to devote a whole page to this new tool on the Net so that we can find out more about it and understand it better.

After two years in the making, the Norwegian and American protagonists of this venture met at the Troll scientific base last October. They spent over 4 weeks fine-tuning preparations for the expedition, making sure that everything was in perfect working condition before the start. Preparations for the adventure began two years ago when the Troll base sent out numerous expeditions along the route to set up the fuel supplies that will be required - 160 barrels in all.

On 16th November 2007, the convoy set out from Troll, with four trucks pulling four sledges carrying the various pods required for living and working. There are 19 scientists in all (5 American and 14 Norwegian) working under the direction of Jan Gunnar Winther from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Each truck is equipped with a radar device at the front capable of identifying crevasses up ahead.

The expedition intends to spend 60 days covering the 2800 km between Troll and the South Pole, following the route shown on the map below. They have been driving for 12 or so hours a day, covering around 100 km. By Saturday 24th November, the convoy had reached 74°38' S - 12°47' E.

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