Monday, December 2, 2013

Traverse Day 7 Update

Day 7 Progress:
Day 7 - 1 December 2013, 1330UT
Position reached: E 132° 30.341' S 70° 33.051'
Elevation: 2724 m
Distance covered so far: 579.8km
Temperature (evening): -25° C

Today we turned west toward Aurora Basin, and left the formed track to
Concordia. It was with some trepidation that we headed off, not knowing for
sure how easy progress would be on an unconsolidated surface.

We left a little later today - we had some reconfiguring of the caravan to
do, and Manu was setting up a snow radar on our tractor. This trails over
the snow on a boom off to one side and takes regular (2 second) profiles of
radar returns from the upper part of the snow pack (tens of metres). This
will be the first look at how the snow layers change across this large
swathe of East Antarctica, and will help understand the geographic
variation in snowfall rates.

At first Manu and I followed in the 'radar' tractor, with the rest of the
traverse ahead of us - we were also pulling our weight, in the form of 3
12000 L fuel tanks. As it happened, the snow _was_ pretty soft, and the
fact that it was heavily worked over by the caravan ahead of us meant we
got bogged a couple of times. This took a little time to get towed out, and
we ended up reconfiguring the train of vehicles to put us up front, just
behind the kassi. No more getting stuck, and a pretty smooth trip -
although still a bit bumpy to read or blog!

All-in all a 62km day with the later start and minor hitches is a
satisfying start to this stage of the trip, and our target arrival around
December 11 looks within reach if nothing changes!

The off-track work is a bit heavier for the kassi crew, because they are
dealing with an untravelled surface to groom, and simultaneously
maintaining GPS course to the set of waypoints provided by Patrice from

We are currently travelling almost due west, along around 70.5S latitude,
and will gradually make our way south in coming days to the ultimate ABN
latitude of 71.2S. The route will be fairly level - we are now a little
higher than ABN (2701m) and will climb another couple of hundred metres or
thereabouts before crossing a ridge in a couple of days and descending.

Speaking of elevation, the cold polar atmosphere is somewhat thinner than
similar altitudes elsewhere, and so we are in the equivalent vicinity of
about 10000 feet, or a bit over 3000 m. For at least some of us we are
noticing a bit more huffing and puffing than usual when we exert ourselves,
but otherwise no ill effects.