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22 December, 2002

Fog delay

Date: 12/22/02

Latitude: 85 21 24.89 S

Longitude: 106 05 59.70 W

Time of Observations: 10:00 PM local time

Temperature: -20 C / -4 F

Wind speed: 10 knots

Wind Chill: -30 C/ -22 F

Wind direction: Westerly

Meters of ice collected: 383 m

By Daniel Dixon

Today we finished up our work at Site 3, most of us had finished up our science yesterday, so we just packed up our gear and loaded the sleds ready for travel. Markus and Betsy were the last ones to pack, they remained busy until well after lunch with chemistry experiments and more balloon launches. By approximately 6:00 PM we were on our way towards Site 4.

This parcticular leg of the journey is probably the most hazardous that we will experience on this traverse. We will be traveling up into East Antarctica through the Bottleneck (a ~100 km wide Transantarctic Mountain pass) and traveling over areas where the ice changes its speed of flow. The ice is flowing slowly in East Antarctica, but as it flows through the bottleneck it speeds up, then it slows down again as it spreads out into West Antarctica. Areas where ice changes its flow speed are hazardous because it is in these areas that crevasses are most likely to open up.

For our own safety we have been driving slower than usual and keeping an extremely close eye on the crevasse detecting radar. For the last 30 km a thick fog/diamond dust cloud has enveloped us, this reduces our range of visibility to less than 300 m. This range of visibility is fine when traveling over flat ground because we navigate by GPS (Global Positioning System). The GPS is an amazing tool, even if we completely blacked out all the windows in the tractor cab we could still arrive within ~25 m of our planned destination by following the GPS directions. Unfortunately, this leg of the journey is through the Transantarctic Mountains and the terrain is anything but flat. It is important to have good visibility in order to navigate around the bigger hills and avoid getting stuck. So, at the moment we are staying put until we have better visibility. I hope we do not have to wait long, Site 4 awaits us!

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