Friday, January 22, 2010

Antarctic "Traverse" - Sort of...

Today was my last scheduled day at WAIS Divide, and my scheduled
departure date. Unfortunately the flight back to McMurdo was canceled
and sent to the Byrd camp instead. The good news, however, is that I
instead got to accompany our mechanic Rick out on a 42 mile (84 mile
round-trip) traverse from camp. When the Penn State guys came back
from their Thwaites Glacier traverse, they had to dump a sled full of
fuel about 42 miles from camp because the Tucker's differential went
haywire. After fixing it at WAIS, RIck needed someone to accompany
him out to pick up the sled and bring it back to camp. Since I had no
flight, I happily volunteered. This turned out to be an incredible

I realize that this experience is a far cry from the 200+ mile
traverse the other guys went on, but for me, driving 42 miles up and
over the ice divide and down Thwaites was pretty damn exciting. The
weather was perfect until we hit the divide about 18 miles from camp.
Immediately, the visibility dropped to nearly zero, and we were
driving completely on GPS. Going about 15 miles per hour, we hit the
sled about 3 hours in and hooked everything up. On the way back we
stopped 22 miles from camp to pick up one last stray empty fuel drum
that was left on the ice, and I got to drive the last 20 miles back
into camp.

While we were out at the fuel sled I paused for a brief moment and
realized that it was (and may be for the rest of my life), the most
remote place on the planet I have ever been. It was a rather mind
numbing notion.

Never I have been happier that my flight was canceled ;-)

For those of you wondering and want to google earth it, here are the
coordinates (in decimal degrees):
WAIS: 112.085 W, 79.467 S
Fuel Sled: 111.03581 W, 78.90150 S

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