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28 November, 2000


Our project, as well as those of the other groups, requires team members to travel away from the field camp. Most of the travel makes use of snowmobiles. Gary and Bob use large Skidoo Alpine IIs. I have a smaller but faster Cheyenne. The Alp IIs are often used to tow equipment (or people) on a Nansen sled.

We use the snowmobiles to go to the main drill site, which is 3 km (2 mi) away from camp. They also allow us to get to the shallow drill holes. These are located on a line 10 km north, 10 km south, and 32 km south of the main drill site. I have visited all three of these sites in the last week.

Traveling on Siple Dome is a challenge because there are virtually no landmarks to go by. There are three ways to find your way to one of the other drill sites. First, you can follow the line of flagged, bamboo poles. However, they can be a few hundred meters apart. If it is cloudy, windy, or snowing it can be very difficult to spot a flag that is more than a football field away. A second strategy is to follow snowmobile tracks. They are a safe bet because all traffic follows the flagged route. But tracks can be absent or difficult to see. The final possibility is to use a hand-held GPS unit. If programmed with the coordinates of your destination, these amazing devices can give both the distance and direction you need to travel.

The snow surface on Siple Dome is fairly even, making travel comfortable. Certain areas, like those farther south, often have quite a few sastrugi. These are ripples in the snow surface created by the wind. They can range from a few centimeters to more than half a meter high. They act like speed bumps for snowmobiles, requiring lower speeds and sometime dodging maneuvers.

A. This is the Siple Dome parking lot. Beyond the snowmobiles is the generator shack surrounded by the heavy equipment.

B. We visited the H hole, 10km south of the main drill site. Since we only had two snowmobiles, Bob became a passenger on the Nansen sled. Here he is giving the "thumbs up" meaning he's ready to go. The sled is modeled after those designed by Fritjof Nansen, a Norwegian arctic explorer of the late 1800s.

C. This wind-powered sled known as a LEGO is probably the hottest vehicle at Siple Dome.

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