8 December, 2002
Latitude: 81=B0 04=92 36=94 S
Longitude: 115=B0 04=92 49=94
Temperature: -15C / 5F
Wind speed: 4 knots
Wind Chill: -20=B0C/ -4=B0F
Wind direction: Southwest
Meters of ice collected so far: 71m
by Dan Dixon
Since leaving Byrd Camp we have been driving nonstop for over 32 hours.
At present we are slightly over halfway to our first official=20 destination, Site 1. We experienced a bit of difficulty at way point number 4 (about 40 km away from Byrd), the snow was very deep and very soft. It had a 1 cm-thick hard layer on the top and underneath that was about two feet of sugary snow (sugary snow resembles fine granulated sugar). The sugary snow has very little cohesive strength (it flows through your fingers like sand and it is impossible to make a snowball out of it); this makes it difficult for the Caterpillar tracks to get a grip. Thankfully, the new wide tracks and Aalaner fuel sled handled it well and we were only delayed by a couple of hours in this soft snow area. After way point 6 (about 60 km away from Byrd), the surface conditions improved and made progress easier. Way points are predetermined points spaced approximately 10 km apart between sites, we
stop at every way point to check the Cats and the trains. Driving over an ice sheet is no easy task; it requires several people at any one time. Two people are required to drive the Challenger tractors, one for the crevasse radar, one for the shallow radar and GPS, and one more for the deep radar. This makes a total of five people required to be awake and working.
We usually work six-hour shifts to allow some time for sleep, but even sleeping is no pushover. While the trains are moving, the sleds rock back and forth and up and down (like a boat in a rough sea), there are also occasional bumps as the sled skis drop over the edge of sastrugi (sastrugi are like sand dunes but made of snow). It is not uncommon to be thrown completely out of your bunk while traversing areas with large sastrugi. All this makes driving over ice sheets quite an ordeal.
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