Everything’s Going According to Plan

Published on 08.12.2007 - Norwegian-US Scientific Traverse of East Antarctica

With its four sets of vehicles and overall impressive logistics, the joint US-Norway expedition is steadily making its way. The expedition has stopped for the first time for four days to carry out work on the icy terrain.

Out of the 19 members who make up this expedition, only 4 are occupied full-time: these are the drivers and co-drivers who operate the caterpillar tractors that pull the sledge convoys. So, what are all the others doing as they drive across the Antarctic icecap?

Most of them sit in the mobile kitchen and spend their time working. Some enter into their laptops data about the scientific observations they have taken, for as long as their batteries allow to do so, while others decipher the information produced regularly by the radar (including from the clever little radar unit that detects crevasses ahead), and others yet try to rest a little if possible. The three journalists invited to be a part of the adventure are kept busy preparing their articles and sending them by satellite to their respective editorial departments in Norway or the United States.

We are so used to tracking the stresses and strains of other expeditions, perhaps more sporting, that we had almost forgotten that such levels of comfort could exist in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between the Antarctic coastline and the American Amundsen-Scott base at the South Pole!

Twelve days after setting out from the Norwegian Troll base, one of the 4 tractor vehicles, 'Lasse' (to tell you its name), stopped working properly. They called in the super-mechanic who soon detected problems with the differential. No problem though, they have everything they need to make running repairs. After a busy night's work, the convoy set out southwards again. The same problem then happened to the second tractor (called 'Chinook'), with the same remedy.

On 30th November, the team halted at 76°04' S / 22°28' E (site 91), partly to wait for fresh supplies and to allow two scientists to go home, and partly to carry out scientific work on the terrain.

This work involves drilling into the icecap to extract ice-cores that are used for studying the history of the climate. Within 4 days, the scientists had reached a depth of 100 metres, while back at the ranch, the mechanic was in seventh heaven as the supply plane brought in 6 new differentials.

Their position on 6th December: 77°00' S / 26°03' E.

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