“Moving South” – by Brian Newham
The Ice Train is on the move for the very first time.
This morning we made final preparations and stowed the last of our equipment before setting out on our journey to lay a fuel depot further south. The strategy behind the fuel depot is twofold. Firstly, we need to reduce the weights that we are towing so we need to position fuel between our starting point at the coast and the Pole – we will then be able to pick up this fuel as we pass on our winter journey. Secondly, there is a mountain chain between the coast and the inland plateau and it makes things a lot easier for us to navigate through this area whilst conditions are easier and we have good daylight. Having laid our depot we will return to the coast and await the start of winter. Then we will set out on our winter journey with the benefit of knowing that we have fuel further south and also knowing the route through the difficult mountain section. It’s a good plan.
We are hoping to get the depot down to 75S, that is our optimum position; but we will have to see how the journey unfolds and in particular what our fuel burn is. On the steeper sections through the mountains we are certain to have to ferry lighter loads backwards and forwards so it’s really difficult to be certain of our estimates. We are starting to enter the unknown and will have many lessons to learn along the way. This depot journey is certainly not to be underestimated and the round trip will be over 600 miles.
So, just four hours ago, we hitched up the Ice Train and headed south for the very first time. Test pulls over the last few days suggested that we might be able to pull a bit more weight than we had originally planned, so we gave it a go. Things were okay until we came to the first incline and we soon realised that we should have stuck to Plan A. A quick reconfiguration and we were off on our journey. The pace is slow but very steady and as I write from the caboose we are gently nosing south. Through the window in front of me a flat, white, featureless world is slipping past. It’s overcast and without shadow, but to the south the sky looks brighter. It’s the way we must go and although it is not yet winter the journey has begun.