Geoff Sims @ UNSW
Home South Pole Diaries 2012/13 16th January, 2013


Wednesday, 16th January, 2013

Let's go! (John)

As we've done for the last few days, we met the pilots over breakfast this morning to discuss the weather forecast and to study the latest web-cam images from Ridge A. For the first time this year, the temperature at Ridge A has just dipped below -40C.

The pilots and Craig look intently at the web-cam images.

This time, everything was in our favour: not only were conditions good at Pole, AGAP and Ridge A, but they were bad at Klein Glacier, the first priority destination for the Twin Otter. So, we were bumped up the queue. After breakfast, we headed promptly out to the flight line to load our cargo.

It feels great to be loading up our plane at last.

However, with about 800 kg to load, a bulldozer comes in handy.

Here are our two pilots:


...and Darrin. Canadian pilots get the coolest looking ECW gear.

This is the ski walloper. To break the skis free of the ice before take-off, a block of wood and a very large sledge hammer are used.

With the plane fully loaded and ready to go, a new and unexpected problem emerged: both we and the German Basler had been allocated the same ski-way slot of 0900hrs! For a moment or two it was unclear how this would be resolved, but fortunately nature has evolved a way of resolving such dominance disputes without injury.

The intruder enters the Twin Otter's territory and challenges it for supremacy.

Like two bull moose they face each other, neither willing to yield.

First the Basler paws the ground to show how much snow he can throw up.

Then it's the Twin Otter's turn.

Defeated, the Basler turns tail and flees. The ski-way is ours!

Within minutes our Twin Otter is airborne, while the Basler taxis to take second turn for take-off.

The Twin Otter returned around dinner time, after a very successful trip. Apparently the ski-way is quite hard to see from the air, so we'll need those black plastic garbage bags we souvenired. However the ski way is also in quite good condition, so our daily warm-up ritual with shovels and chainsaw to smooth the lumps and bumps should not need to be too prolonged.

Craig has stitched together these web-cam images of the Twin Otter delivering our cargo to Ridge A.

For the rest of the day we got things ready for a possible deployment tomorrow. I must remember to trim my moustache tonight, because when it freezes to my beard I can't open my mouth anymore.

At -26C, South Pole is only a practice run for Ridge A's expected temperatures of below -40C.

Our next load is now lined up on the flight-line. Tonight we'll pack our sleep kits and our very best ECW gear and hopefully be flying by 0900 tomorrow. More likely, however, the Twin Otter will make its primary mission to relieve Klein Glacier camp, where apparently they've been out of toilet paper for a week now.

Our engines, on their "sledlets", lined up ready for loading.

If there's no blog update tomorrow night, we're at Ridge A (with no Internet access). A bumper crop of blog updates will follow shortly!


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