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31 December, 2002

Happy New Year

Date: 12/31/02  

Latitude: 89° 11’ 35.98” S

Longitude: 111° 36’ 12.32” W

Time of Observations: 10:00 PM local time

Temperature: -22 C / -8 F

Wind speed: 0 knots

Wind Chill: -22 C/ -8 F

Wind direction: Southerly

Meters of ice collected: 584 m  

By Daniel Dixon

Today is New Years Eve, and what better way to spend it than driving to the South Pole. We are still on the road and are about 90 km away from Pole. Everything was running smoothly until about 20 km ago. It was there that we encountered conditions similar to those that we experienced about 40 km from Byrd at the beginning of the traverse - deep soft snow, and lots of it. We were not expecting to run into this so close to the Pole, perhaps it could be a consequence of the current El Nino. These conditions are extremely bizarre to say the least, over 12 inches of soft powder (a skier’s dream and a Cat driver’s nightmare), no wind, and 360 degree white clouds. The whole situation seems very surreal. While standing 100 m away (doing surface snow sampling) and looking back at the trains, it seemed to me that they were just floating in midair - very strange! The clouds and horizon blend so perfectly that it is nearly impossible to see the ground. The Sun is diffused to such an extent that no shadows are cast  the white snowy ground seems perfectly flat, even when the Cats leave 1-2 foot deep tracks! Just walking a few meters can turn into an adventure. The deep snow makes pulling heavy loads difficult for the Cat tractors and the tracks spin often. To overcome the problem we have had to split the trains. This makes the loads lighter but means more trips to and fro with the Cats which uses up more fuel. It also means that each segment of the train has to have its own survival and communication equipment in case it gets stranded by a storm. This shuttling of loads takes up a lot more time than usual but we are still confident that we can reach the South Pole by January 1st or January 2nd.

Happy New Year to you all.

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