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18 December, 2002

Hurry Up Site 3!

Date: 12/18/02

Latitude: 84 degrees 22 minutes 02.02 seconds South Longitude: 105 degrees 03 minutes 05.65 seconds West

Time of Observations: 9:00 PM local time

Temperature: -23 C / -9.4 F

Wind speed: 10 knots

Wind Chill: -33.8 C/ -28.9 F

Wind direction: Northeasterly

Meters of ice collected: 308 m

By Dan Dixon

We have been traveling for 27 hours straight and the going has been very tough. The surface conditions have been similar to those we experienced near Byrd. The snow has been very deep and very soft with large, hard sastrugi from the previous storm. These alternating hard and soft surfaces are very hard on the sleds and tractors; they make the ride very bumpy and often cause breakage. As a result, we have not gone as far as we had originally hoped. We have stopped for the night and are working on some improvements that should make the journey easier tomorrow. One of the main obstacles we have come up against is very large, steep hills (hard to believe in a normally flat place like this). The hills look spectacular, like massive white ocean waves frozen mid-break. The Challenger tractors are having a hard time pulling their heavy loads up such steep inclines so Blue and Gordon are devising a new route, using satellite and topography data, which should take us along the least-steep and safest path. We have already had short glimpses of mountains on the horizon and by the time we are at Site 3 we should have a magnificent view all around us, as the Transantarctic Mountains will surround us. The area where Site 3 is located is a ~100 km wide mountain pass between East and West Antarctica. Because the East Antarctic ice plateau is so much higher than West Antarctica, a considerable amount of ice flows through the pass from east to west. The small width and shallow depth of the pass make it into a bottleneck for the ice; this will make it an extremely interesting area to study.

With luck, we should be at Site 3 by tomorrow afternoon.

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