Six days to reach the South Pole (from Union Glacier)
Published on 05.12.2010 - Moon Regan TransAntarctic Expedition
The Moon/Regan motor expedition has reached the South Pole on 4 December. They have driven about 800 kilometers in no more than six days. Despites of many mecanical breakdowns and the presence of many sastrugis flieds.
This way of travelling on the Antarctic plateau (with motor vehicles and trucks for the Arctic Trucks expeditions) is without any doubt a turning point in the touristic history of the polar adventures. One just has to read the Jamie's blog of the 29 November to realize how things are different whne progressin on board of special vehicles. Excerpts of their diary : "On arrival at the Institute fuel cache, despite only a few hours’ sleep for the team, everyone quickly jumped into action. Motivated, I think, by the awesomeness of our surroundings as the sun shone down and for 360 degrees there was nothing but crisp white snow and blue skies. The decision after the long drive was to set up camp, enjoy a warm meal and get a good night’s sleep, in preparation for some long driving legs to the Pole. Within an hour, Jamie and Paul had erected the main mess/sleeping tent and two VE25 ‘luxury’ accommodation suites. Paul’s military drills came into action, telling me we could improve our performance and must work harder to increase our speed. Vern once again set to work boiling water, a problem for Expeditions in the desert of Antarctica where the humidity is so low. ..."
"Andrew and Andrew spent the hour deliberating over the correct fuel strategy -with some of the thickest snowfall Vern had ever seen on Antarctica, the fuel consumption had been poor - it was decided to tow some extra barrels on the recovery skis behind the vehicles, which we would use to re-fuel from initially. There is no further fuel between here and the South Pole so it would be disastrous to run out. Once they were all empty we would leave them on the ice and mark the GPS waypoint for collection on our return. The more we could tactically deposit along the route for the return crossing, the more efficient we could be and hopefully the faster we could run. Andrew Regan’s page of calculation making sense only to him even after he’d explained it to everyone. ..."
Having that said, this way of travelling on polar icesheets has still rough edges. They have encountered so far (without giving the boring details of the various breakdowns): fuel consumption problems (so they had to put some extra barrels on skis behind the vehicles), broken pulley and belt drive, rear air suspension of SSV1 having suddenly stopped working (1 December). On 2 December, Jamie wrote : "Even when we taking things gently the mechanical problems still crept in, the drive belt on SSV2 breaking less than 24 hours after a new one was installed – so much for the 100,000 mile life expectancy outside this brutal environment. The repair, as ever, was completed highly efficiently by the now-Superstar status mechanics, who had fixed everything thrown at them so far. ..." The next day : "The last degree to the Pole was largely without incident, other than battling throughpatches of soft snow. The transmission temperature in SSV2 was dangerously high as we approached the campsite, having to stop every few minutes to allow it to cool below 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It seems even to the last leg to the Pole we were battling the conditions and the mechanical problems. On arriving at the campsite the team shook hands and hugged, the jubilation and delight visible on everyone’s face..."
Despite all these setbacks the 10 members team finally arrived safely at the South Pole ; it was on the night of the 4 December, six days after having left Union Glacier ALE's basecamp. They choose to rest few days there before going north towards the Transantarctic Mountains and the McMurdo Station.