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The South Pole Traverse Arrives

Although much of the food, fuel, and supplies in Antarctica is transported via air, there’s still a good amount that needs to be hauled by ground. Additionally, various field camps need a heavy ground crew to support their operations and transport requirements. For this, we have the ultra-burl South Pole Traverse Team.

More on their route, from Wikipedia:

The South Pole Traverse, also called the McMurdo – South Pole Highway, is an approximately 995-mile-long (1,601 km) compacted snow road in Antarctica that links the United States’s McMurdo Station on the coast to the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. It was constructed by leveling snow and filling in crevasses, but is not paved; flags mark its route.

Map_of_the_McMurdo-South_Pole_highway

After four years of development, the trail is now operational, with Caterpillar and Case Corp. tractors pulling specialized sleds to deliver fuel and cargo to the South Pole in about 40 days. The return trip to McMurdo Station, with less fuel and cargo, is substantially quicker.

Throughout the summer season at the South Pole Station, the traverse team stops in for food, fuel, and rest. A few pics of their recent stops at pole, and their machinery and facilities.

The traverse team arrives after a long trek across the frozen continent.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

Towing giant bladders of AN8 jet fuel.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

View from the drivers seat. Remarkably comfortable, with GPS and stereo with iPod hookup.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

Their living quarters.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

Inside the living quarters.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

The team needs to be able to deal with any mechanical issues they encounter while on the road. Here’s their repair shed.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse
2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

At night, all of the machines are hooked up to a central generator, where they receive electricity to power engine blog heaters. Without constant heat, the engines would freeze up in the sub-zero air, and be extremely difficult to start again in the morning.

2012-12-06 South Pole Traverse

4 comments

  1. Keith Keber says:

    By “engine blog” heaters, l guess you mean “engine block” heaters (damn you autocorrect!). Considering how crucial that is, do they bring a second set of generators to serve as back-up in case the primaries fail? How do they keep the generator engines from freezing?

    On another subject, since you are the cook: do you ever use chile peppers in your cooking? You know, since it’s so cold there, and since chilis can add some terrific warmth to cuisine? (only asking because I am a total chile fan and thus I see great utility for them there)

    • Hah, yes, I do mean engine block.

      I believe they do have an emergency generator, but it must be small – I’ll ask the guys when I see them today. I believe they prevent the generators from freezing by not turning them off!

      YEs, I do use chili in my cooking, occasionally – although since this is a more of a cafeteria style cooking, there’s a general preference to make food on the less spicy side, and then let people spice it up themselves – we have a whole rack of hot sauces. And actually, as a special request, we had ghost chile curry the other day – one small pot just for the chili people on station – but it was so good!

  2. Don Howell, says:

    I just finished reading “Blazing Ice” by John Wright…..pioneering the road.
    This project along with the first flights to the Sth Pole and building the first base, first over winter at the Pole…..by the U.S. , should be elevated to equal the status of Polar exploration expeditions of Sir Douglas Mawson, Amunsden, Schakleton,, Fuchs and Hillary.
    Don Howell, a collector of Anarctica Books, member of Friends of Mawson( South Austrlian Museum)

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