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Antarctic trucking

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Last season I was more or less (except for the most amazing bonus in the world) stuck in the dining tent as a kitchen assistant and dish washer. This season I signed up to work in the Mechanical department, and the idea was that I would be out driving for most of the season. Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions not only provide logistics services for ski expeditions and climbers, but also take on government contracts for provide logistics for research programs. This season we hauled all the equipment for a British program called Lake Ellsworth (http://www.ellsworth.org.uk/). From our own Union Glacier Camp and up onto the plateau. It turned out to be one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever had.

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In the beginning of the season most of the equipment came in on our Ilyushin, and was then loaded onto slides and sledges.

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To handle the containers we use a Swedish lift called a Hammer Lift. A brilliant design! Containers are put on slides, thick sheets of a strong plastic material and a bit of padding, and crates are loaded on to big sledges.

The access to the plateau takes us from camp and up glaciers to a pass where the ice flows over the mountain range and down into the valleys. The scenery is stunningly beautiful!

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To get up the pass we had to “build” a road with a switch back turn as it was too steep to drive directly up. It is pretty amazing what an experienced driver can do with the blade of a snow cat. It looked almost like a highway. I could probably drive up with the Patrol…

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Driving over the pass we moved out onto the plateau, and another 160 kilometers towards the sub-glacial lake. The idea behind the Lake Ellsworth project is to drill down 3400 meters to this lake, that has been totally isolated from the rest of the world for maybe as much as 150 000 years. Unfortunately, this year the drilling equipment wasn’t up to the job, but my guess is they will try again in a few years’ time. The call came in just before New Year’s eve, that the team was packing up, come and pick us up. The first half of January we were busy going back and forth to Lake Ellsworth, and eventually the camp was cleared and everything was back at the runway on Union Glacier.

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Our landmark. The pass is somewhere in between the mountains.

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We call in to our base regularly on Iridium sat phones to report position and status.

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With us on the trip is “The Caboose”, our living quarters. We have two beds and four seats, and a microwave and waterboiler run by a generator in the back. The big tanks in front of the Box are fuel tanks.

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Schanz Glacier, the last leg down to Union Glacier, and home sweet home!

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