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4 January, 2003

Sastrugi Fields forever

Date: 1/4/03

Latitude: 88 59' 56.04" S

Longitude: 059 58' 27.84" W

Time of Observations: 11:00 p.m. local time

Temperature: -25 C / -13 F

Wind speed: 2 knots

Wind Chill: -28.6 C/ -19.5 F

Wind direction: Southerly

Meters of ice collected: 920 m

By Dan Dixon

After driving for approximately 14 hours through soft snow, hard snow, and sastrugi fields, we arrived at the 100 km drill site. Apart from the sastrugi fields there was not much to see along the way. The sastrugi were very impressive, some were over one meter high and very hard. The wind carves the sastrugi into all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes and it is hard not to be mesmerized as you drive along. Despite the beauty of the sastrugi, they actually become quite a barrier to fast travel as their spatial density increases. The field we traveled through was so densely packed that it was impossible to steer the train around them. As a result we had to reduce our speed to less than 8 km/h. Thankfully, the sastrugi field only lasted for about 15 km, after this we could speed up to an impressive 11 km/h.

The site itself did not look like anything special, it was chosen purely based on its accumulation rate. The scenery was flat and white all around. The one welcome feature that we all noticed was the blazing Sun. Yet again, the Sun did not let us down; it shone and shone and shone. It is very important to have clear conditions and sun while traveling through sastrugi fields, otherwise all the ground detail disappears and it becomes impossible to dodge any of the sastrugi. The Sun continued to keep us warm throughout our 8 hours of drilling and snow sampling and we were in such good spirits that we drove back immediately upon finishing work.

A couple of cloud banks rolled by us as we began our journey back to the Pole. Luckily, these had cleared by the time we reached the sastrugi fields. I was so impressed by the beauty of the sastrugi that I had to stop and take several photos. It seemed as though we were driving over a frozen ocean (in fact we were!) and the sastrugi were the waves, each one carved into it's own unique shape and all breaking in the same direction. The drive back took 14 hours; so all in all, the 100 km traverse took us 36 hours to complete. It was so quick and easy because the train was light and the weather was amazingly good.

The 100 km traverse was a complete success, not only did we collect almost 20 meters of core but we did it in record time too. It won't be long until we are all back in McMurdo and then winging our way back to civilization.


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