500m winch - by Ian Prickett

The Ice Team are camped in the middle of a hideous crevasse field with seemingly bottomless cracks up to 4m across and big enough to swallow a 25-tonne without it even touching the sides. Needless to say this is a very stressful place to be and it is keeping the Ice Team on their toes at all times.

Making matters worse the Ground Penetrating Radar is not working, which effectively means the team cannot always be sure what is underneath them. Although the team is getting a lot of remote support from the suppliers of the GPR and the team is confident of having identified the solution, it has been out of action now for a couple of days and may not be until Thursday before it is fully fixed.

Earlier in the week the Ice Team was able to shift their camp from being in the midst of an especially crevassed spot to a more secure position about 50m further north. However, today the team exposed a large hole just meters from the new camp putting their nerves on tenterhooks once again.

To put these holes into context they are far bigger than the ones the team came across in the blue ice field, and where the team was able to use the bulldozers to fill these previous holes ready for crossing, these new holes are extremely wide and deep and filling them with snow is simply not an option. If these cracks cross a route then a new route must be found.

The situation now is that there are a number of fuel scoots which are unreachable with the Cats about 500m south of the current camp. These scoots were dropped off without issue a few days ago; but when the Cats returned to collect the other scoots they inadvertently opened up a number of large crevasses which are now preventing a safe route for the Ice Train. The net result of this is that the current route is impassable and the Ice Team are having to winch the fuel scoots all the way back to the camp before they can carry on.

Today the team worked exclusively on winching the fuel scoots (see pic) and by the time they called it a day they had only managed to bring back two of the six fuel scoots lying to the south. It is therefore a very slow and physically demanding process, not helped by the altitude and blustery conditions. The next two scoots have now been rigged ready for winching tomorrow. It may not be until Thursday now before all six scoots are back at the camp ready for the next move.

When I spoke with Brian this evening he said the team were very tired after a gruelling day winching and were looking forward to tucking into a tuna pasta bake which he had made with Rob. He was nevertheless upbeat at the idea that the team had possibly just completed the longest winch carried out in Antarctic history! But more on that tomorrow…

Please join me in wishing the team safe passage and some long overdue good luck!

Hugh, Operations HQ


Photo by Ian Prickett