November 23, 2003
South Pole traverse team heads out
A line of tractors and towed supplies left McMurdo station on Tuesday pulling enough gear to get seven men two-thirds of the way to the South Pole. Project manager John Wright formally announced the traverse departure from Williams Field by radio. “Mac Ops, Mac Ops... South Pole Traverse is departing McMurdo for the Ross Ice Shelf and points south, seven souls on board five tractors. Estimated time of return to McMurdo: February 01, 2004.”
The traverse project is testing the possibility of partially supplying the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station by land. Five vehicles, pulling fuel and supplies, living quarters and power and water production capability, are headed through the highly crevassed area called the shear zone, across the Ross Ice Shelf and to the Leverett Glacier. Last year, the traverse got through the shear zone, filling in crevasses as they went. The traverse’s challenge this year is to reach the Leverett Glacier and progress as far as possible up the glacier toward the polar plateau.
“Gaining access to the polar plateau will exceed expectations,” said Rick Campbell, the project’s point of contact at McMurdo.
In 2004-2005, the convoy will go the full distance to the South Pole and back. If the journey is successful and evaluations show the approach to be consistent with Antarctic Treaty environmental protection measures, this three-year proof of concept program will have blazed the way for regular ground deliveries of equipment and material.