21 December, 2000
Skiing across Antarctica
Periodically, we get visitors at the South Pole. Yesterday, two Norwegians came skiing in. Eirik Sonneland and Rolf Bae were two of four Norwegians who spent last winter at Troll, a Norwegian station in Dronning Maud Land, on the opposite coast of Antarctica from McMurdo. This was the first group of Norwegians to winter in 40 years, and they spent their time preparing the 90 square meter station for scientists to come down this summer. On October 21, they left Troll to ski across the continent. If successful, they will be the first group to ski across the continent unsupported- without picking up supplies along the way, or getting help from any outside source. They have communication systems with them that allowed them to contact home, but that system broke towards the beginning of their journey. The only communication they now have are emergency beacons, which will be used only in an emergency if they are unable to finish the trip for some reason and need assistance. They hope to reach McMurdo in early February.
While they are here at the South Pole for a day, they are camping in their tent, a few meters from the pole. Their tent is short, small, and dark. This helps the sun to heat the tent, which besides themselves, is the only heat inside the tent. The small stoves that they have for melting ice are extremely efficient, and do not provide a source of heat.
Rolf and Eirik are crossing the 3800 km on skis, with sleds that carry all of their supplies behind them. Here Rolf is tying down his sled, preparing to leave. His skis are in the snow to the right. They can travel up to 38 km per day on skis, but on the polar plateau if there is wind they can attach sails to themselves and travel up to 50 km per day. Rolf and Eirik planned their trip for four years. Over the winter they tested their supplies to see how much fuel and food they should bring with them. They brought 175 kg of food and 37 L of white gas fuel. Their food is very compact, with 6000 calories in 1kg of food. This is what they each consume in one day. However, a few days they have not eaten this much, so have extra food. They are actually leaving some of their extra food behind at the South Pole to reduce the weight that they are carrying with them.
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