October 27, 2009

The Sunday evening science lecture on October 25th explained some of the logistics behind the “South Pole Traverse.”   The South Pole Traverse is an attempt to save money and leave a smaller environmental footprint in providing supplies to the South Pole.  Traditionally, transporting the provisions to the South Pole has been accomplished by C-130 airplanes.  The C-130’s are equipped with skis for landing and takeoff.

The traverse uses tractors, towing the supplies on specially designed sleds, over 1000 miles from McMurdo Station to the South Pole.  On the return from the pole they haul out as much waste as possible.  Apparently, an overabundance of waste has accumulated at the pole throughout the years.  I tried to write down the following facts and statistics correctly, but don’t quote me:

The Traverse consists of:  8 tractors hauling sleds

1 radar vehicle (searches down, looking for hidden crevasses)

930,000 pounds of goods delivered

10   people

160,000 gallons of fuel (at the start)

They hope to average 33 miles per day on the way to the pole, and 47 miles per day on the way back.   Key dates:    November 6,  Leave McMurdo.

December 6.  Arrive at South Pole.

December 16.  Leave South Pole.

January 6.  Arrive McMurdo.

The traverse will save 36 trips to the South Pole by the C-130’s.  That will save 88,000 gallons of fuel and emit less pollution.

The hope is to start doing 2 traverses to the pole per year.  I’m not sure when that will commence.

As an attempt to make the trip more efficient they have developed new sleds and fuel tanks.  The sleds are made of extremely tough, slippery plastic.  The fuel tanks are long, thin, and tough bladders that rest on the sleds.  Both sleds and bladders are flexible to “roll” with the uneven terrain.   Compared to the old fuel tanks & sleds, the new ones are 1/10th the weight, 1/3rd the resistance, and 1/5th the cost.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share with you.

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