“We Pull For Science” — A Traverse Team Update

“We Pull For Science” — A Traverse Team Update

When you are “pulling” for someone or something, you are cheering them on and showing your support.  The WISSARD/South Pole traverse team is “pulling for science,” both literally and figuratively.  They are pulling all of our equipment, tools, portable buildings, transportation (snowmobiles, Pisten Bully) and fuel to the Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) drill site.  They are also supporting our technical and scientific endeavors with the WISSARD Project.  They’re a great team and we all want to thank them for their collective efforts with the traverse so far.

Traverse teams face some pretty tough conditions in terms of weather, snow/ice conditions, crevasses, and condition of the materials they are hauling.  Check out the photos below, from the first South Pole traverse of this austral season (November-December, 2012)

Not all days are clear and sunny like in the photo below.


There might be days of drifts and white-outs. 


Weather changes quickly down here in Antarctica.

Traverse 1-today

Remember, not only do the drivers on the traverse team cover many miles per day, but there are other tasks that need to be accomplished when they stop, including refueling of all 12 tractors, as demonstrated below.  Each tractor pulls over to the fuel bladders, which serve as a portable service station.


I found out more about the ground penetrating radar system.  The GPR system is off the ice shelf.  They use a 400 MHz (mega hertz) antenna mounted about 20 feet in front of the vehicle, which gives them more time to stop if the driver of the lead vehicle notices something strange on his computer screen.  A “hertz” is a measurement of cycles per second.  The word comes from Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who was a scientist who was the first  person with conclusive proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves.  The GPR system helps keep the team safe.

Teams keep rolling along, despite facing many challenges along the way.  They look ahead, but also mark progress one slow day at a time…looking in their rear view mirror at how far they’ve traveled, while keeping a sharp eye out for what’s ahead. 


One Week Into the Traverse…

It’s been a little over a week since I went out with other WISSARD’s and watched the traverse team depart for the Lake Whillans field camp.  It’s time for an update.

At first it was slow going.  The team has had to stop to complete some welding at certain spots on the containers which were showing signs of stress.


Here is the long line of tractors, sleds, and containers on the traverse.


Careful progress was made through the shear zone, an area known to be more prone to crevasses (cracks) in the ice.

The recent shot below shows Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror in the distance.


Despite a lower number of miles covered on the first days of the traverse, day 4 they drove 53.5 miles and on day 5 the team covered 62.5 miles. 

Saturday was spent doing more repairs and adjustments to the loads, skis, containers.  The team didn’t move forward in miles on that day, but they did move forward with many repairs.  A lot of work was done on the power distribution module (called the PDM).  Here is information from the daily field report:

“Started the day welding, then spent some time cutting.  Swapped a few modules onto different skis/sleds then welded a bunch more.  This is what we call traversing.

1) The PDM- We’ve had ‘cracking’ issues with the power distribution module, but Marlin and crew have been keeping close watch, and spending several days of total weld time to reinforce the building and keep it from breaking apart.  Yesterday, they had a decent day of driving (60 miles) but at the end the PDM was still showing too many signs of wear/tear. So this morning the crew decided to switch sleds.  They used three CAT cranes in the field to swap out the PDM with the NIU Command and Control container on a Lehman sled (a solid platformed sled) and they feel the swap went well.  The PDM looks happier and the NIU looks far more solid on the other ski kit.

2) Sediment Lab- they have noticed some cracks around the base of the main door of this lab, but nothing major at this point, repairs were made.  They are keeping a close eye on this.

3) Reel Unit- Marlin mentioned a few substantial cracks in mid-section of this building; they weld-reinforced this as well as added extra strapping for support.

4) Exterior Doors, especially those in the mid-sections of the mil-vans on the HWD, are shifting and causing the hinge-pins to work loose.  The crew have not lost any pins, however they are now making sure to watch the pins and ram them back in with a mallet as needed.”  

The photo below shows the first and lightest of the module swaps on Saturday.  There are three cranes lifting this container.


In this photo the team is working on repairs of the power distribution module.


Yesterday was a day of huge progress.  The traverse team drove 75.7 miles!  The team now has 349.3 miles to go to reach the site of the Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) field camp.

Our traverse team is a talented crew who is skillfully making their way to the Subglacial Lake Whillans site.  We are “pulling for you” back here in McMurdo.  Thanks for your hard work!

4 responses to ““We Pull For Science” — A Traverse Team Update

  1. What a fascinating trek the Traverse Team is making! Almost reminds me of the old west’s Wagon Trains traveling against all odds! Except of course they had horses and warmer temps;-)
    By the way, you may have given this information before, but what temperature ranges are being experienced by the Team?

    • Hi Marilyn and Tom,
      Great to hear from you again! The temperatures have been fairly nice during the last couple of weeks. Most days the temperatures have been in the 20’s or 30’s F range. We have a bit of snow flurries going on here this morning, and visibility is not great. It changes very quickly down here! Have a great day up “north.”

  2. dear Mrs.Trummel, I thought it was cool that the weather changes so quick! We will see you soon!
    From Jordan and Hannah

    • It does change SO quickly, Jordan and Hannah! Today when I got up it was VERY foggy. As I walked over to the lab to work I couldn’t even see the ice in McMurdo Sound….not far away. I’m going to check back outside now and see how things are going. 🙂 Keep writing to me and thanks for reading the blogs!

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