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25 November, 2002

Title: Early Trials

Date: 11/25/02

Latitude: 80° 21’

Longitude: 118° 14’

Time of Observations: 11:30 PM local time

Temperature: -20 C / -4 F

Wind speed: 23 knots

Sky Conditions: Mostly sunny. Some clouds.

Wind Chill: -34 C / -30 F

Wind direction : East

Meters of ice collected: 0

Other data from this site: 45.8 Km of 400 MHz and 2 MHz radar profiles.

Notes on daily Life: One of the main goals of ITASE is to study global climate change and there has been a specific focus on determining the global effects of El Niño. This year’s El Niño has caused a dramatic increase in snowfall in West Antarctica. The fresh snow makes travel a bit more difficult. It took us over three hours to go our first three kilometers yesterday and while things did improve somewhat, we were never able to reach our planned speed. We slogged for 12 hours through the thick snow and finally called a break at 2 a.m. when we became mired once again. Over those 12 hours we had not covered as much ground as originally planned. After climbing into our bunks for a few hours of sleep, we awoke this morning to take stock of the situation.

Perhaps the one truth about planning for expeditions like this is that you have to be flexable. We all put our heads together to think of options. A trip of this scope is a marvel of planning and logistics and changes are not easy. Paul, as our field leader, developed a plan and then sorted through the issues to find the most appropriate solution. Difficult questions nagged at us, such as: could we still guarantee that we would arrive at the Pole in time for people to make it back to the their teaching commitments in the States? Could we take all of our sleds and equipment to the Pole? Throughout the day all of these questions were seriously confronted and examined. Over the course of numerous meetings, and satellite phone calls to McMurdo, a plan began to emerge and evolve. Our main challenge right now is the deep, soft snow. This has caused our heavy fuel sleds to burrow into the snow more than expected and has also prevented our narrow-tracked Challenger from being as effective as we had hoped. We have two Challenger tractors; but only one is fitted with special extra wide tracks that allow it to function better in snow. After some logistical wrangling and extensive recalculations along with a hearty dose of Antarctic resolve we devised a new plan that will still bring our entire team to the South Pole.

On a positive note, both the deep and shallow sounding radars have been working wonderfully and have produced some great data. This is especially true of Brian’s deep sounding unit that has already produced some interesting deep stratigraphic profiles. Tomorrow we shall begin our new, revamped traverse with the same dedication, determination, and decisiveness that has marked our group since the beginning. See you at the Pole!

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