AntarcticaPosted by Espen Sat, February 18, 2012 02:00:00
possibly be the new name of our blog. I guess it depends if we can get through
Northern Africa relatively safe and sound. At least the first part is done. I
started on the South Pole in a 6x6 Ford E-350.
we worked for in Antarctica had driven two vehicles into the South Pole this
season as support vehicles for two projects. The first one was the support
vehicle for the Amundsen anniversary (one hundred years since Roald Amundsen
was the first man on the geographical South Pole) and for the expeditions
arriving for this specific date, the 14th of December. The second on
was the support vehicle for Pat Farmer, and Australian who jogged (!) from the
North Pole to the South Pole. At the end of the season both vehicles were to be
driven back to Union Glacier camp, where ALE has its base. Union Glacier is just next to Hercules Inlet
on the coast in the Chilean sector, and where most of the
ski-all-the-way-to-the-south-pole expeditions start. Some weeks before a list
of possible drivers had been put together, and yes, a kitchen assistant with
som driving experience was on the list! Quite exiting. In the end we were two
ALE mechanics, an expedition guide, and a kitchen assistant that packed their
bags and got on the DC-3 heading to the South Pole.
Pole is at almost 3000 meters altitude, and it is significantly colder than at
Union Glacier. The days when we were there to prepare the trip, the thermometer
showed more or less 30 below (celsius). Shortly after we landed at the Pole,
the second vehicle arrived with Pat Farmer, and it came into camp in a big,
black cloud of smoke. Not good…. The turbo went a few kilometers out of camp,
and a field repair had lasted only a few kilometers more before it broke
completely and probably sent some metal particles into the cylinders (at least,
that was the idea.. ). Car number two was moved to the category “overwintering”.
four people there to drive two vehicles back to Union Glacier. The optimal
number for these conditions are three driving in shifts, but four is probably
too much. Needless to say, I was quite nervous for my seat, but one of the
mechanics stayed behind to take down camp for the winter. Phew… And the
smart to bring som extra fuel. This tank holds about 1200 liters, that is six 200
liters fuel drums. Fuel at the South Pole is flown in by aircraft, and is
extremely expensive. I think I heard that a client would have to pay about 14000
USD for one of these drums at the Pole. We filled seven drums before we left!
was about one kilometer out from the Amundsen-Scott base at the Pole, but of
course we had to do a round at the Pole before we headed north. It was a
strange and surreal feeling to “drive around the world” before we drove out
from the base and into more or less nothing…
out from the South Pole. As the other car recently came in this way, the tracks
were clearly visible the first part of the trip.
unURBAN crew at “work”. Couldn’t stop thinking about how much this would cost
if I had been a client of ALE. It could have been worth it, though…
went relatively undramatic across the plateu, and it is the absence of things
to see that actually make the views so breathtaking. The first day you’re just grinning
and driving, but on the second day the reflections on where you are and what
you’re doing start coming to you. Still, in a nice heated car with the iPod
connected to the stereo, cruising through an ice-dessert in a big 6x6 van with
air suspension, the word surreal keeps popping up in my mind.
snow in all directions
to have your own gas station in the back of your car when you are driving
this picture was taken we had to stop and improvise a new slide. We brought a
ski-doo with us back from the Pole, mainly to save weight for the planes, but
also as a “second vehicle”. If something would have happened however, we would probably
have been picked up by a Twin Otter. Anyway, the slide shredded about half way
home, but some plywood got us going again.
On the way
back we also came across one of the expeditions on their way back from the
South Pole. This season several expeditions tried to ski unsupported to the
Pole and back to the starting point (by the coast). These guys had camped on
the road, and I guess they were quite surprised when we pulled over next to
their tent for a chat.
days of driving we saw the first mountains. Union Glacier in in the Herritage
Range, and we could see the mountains from a long distance. It was stunning to “take
off” from the plateu and drive in between mountains. We know that where the
glacier runs between and next to mountains, is where we find crevasses. The
route we were driving is considered relatively safe, but of course, on a
glacier you can never be 100% safe. Some years earlier a Brazilian research expedition
had traveled the same route with a GPR device (Ground Penetrating Radar), and
waypointed the dangerous areas. With these data we could be extra careful (drive
around..) where we knew there were crevasses.
Plateu with so much of nothing is facinating, but I think driving in between
the mountains was my highlight on the trip. Here you find yourself driving up
hills and over small passes, and view out of the windshield is magic. This last
part is a more used route, and a couple of times every season there is a
tractor train with fuel going out this way to a fuel depot for the Twin Otters
flying to the Pole. In an earlier post we had a picture of one of these “trains”
leaving camp with sledges loaded with fuel. The track after these sledges actually
becomes quite a good road, and at some places we were probably doing 50
kilometers an hour.
the drive of a lifetime comes to an end, and we drove into Union Glacier Camp
53 hours and about 1200 kilometer after we left the geographic South Pole.
was a fantastic experience, and I cannot think of a better bonus for two months
of doing dishes!! The first part of the South Pole to Norway drive is hereby
AntarcticaPosted by Espen Tue, February 14, 2012 15:45:26
not to bore you with details, but there are some pics we just have to upload. Antarctica
is a fascinating place, and even if we’re now back on the “mainland”, it is
sometimes hard to let go of the frozen continent and the people we teamed up
with for Antarctic summer. It was long and sometimes hard hours, but when we
had some time off, it was always worth the effort. The Union Glacier Camp is on
a glacier in the Herritage Mountain Range, and the views in all directions are
stunning. We had a few excursions out from camp to different “sightseeing” in
Here we are
driving along the ice runway where the Illushin-76 lands with all the people
and cargo going in to or through Union Glaicer. Great place for a photo
session. The vehicles we use in and around camp (on groomed roads) are a couple
of Ford E-350s, one on 39,5 inch wheels, and one running a set of Mattracks.
Elephant Hill for a stroll in the area. This is a very stable part of the
glacier, and there are no crevasses in this area.
And as we
mentioned the blue ice runway, a nice thing to do is to go down to watch the
Illushin land, or help unloading cargo. We had 31 Illushin flights this season,
the biggest season for ALE so far.
dinner tent for afterhours activity is also a slack-line. And yes, it is
afterhours even if the sun is up. 24 hours, remember..? J
season we had one full day off just before Christmas, and we went for a climb
of Mount Rossmond.
This is the mountain we see every day as it is towering over
camp. We had a fantastic day, and we could see all the way over to the Vinson
Massif with Antarctica’s highest mountain, Mount Vinson. Maybe one day. To the
east we could see out over the platau and the white horizon of ice, ice, and
is about a nice bonus for a dishwasher, and it had 6WD!
AntarcticaPosted by Espen Wed, February 01, 2012 22:43:23
Sorry for a
slight delay in the blogging. We hoped to be able to post some blogs from the frozen continent, but we had some technical challenges, and it turned out to be a bit harder than we had thought. Anyway, we'll try to post us up to date again, and we hope our pictures from Union Glacier and some other places in Antarctica can be of interest. This first post was written in mid December. More soon!
It has been
a while since we posted on our blog and forum threads. Amazing how fast time
goes by. Five weeks ago I was in Punta Arenas waiting for better weather in
Antarctica, and now we are almost half way through the season here at Union
Glacier. Malin is cooking and I’m cleaning, washing, and helping where it is
needed. Both of us have been able to get out of camp on a few occasions, and
Malin is in time of writing at the South Pole where she is the base chef for
the 100 years anniversary for Amundsen’s arrival at the pole as the first in
Several this years’ expeditions have timed their arrival at the South
Pole to this anniversary date (14th December), so it will be lively
in camp here when everybody has a stop over here on their way out from
I also got
a few trips out of camp this season, and the first was a flight up to Berkner
Island to dig out a fuel depot. It was five of us plus two pilots, and we dug
up more than 50 200 liters fuel drums. This was my first flight out of camp, and the Antarctic landscape is simply stunning!
My muscles were pretty sore the
next morning, but at breakfast I found out that there was another digging
mission on the agenda, and I signed up. This time it was a weather station
(instruments on a mast) that had to be dug out at Thiels Mountains, about half
way between Union Glacier and the South Pole.
This is also a fuel depot that
ALE uses for its Twin Otters when they fly to the pole. When we landed, a team
from ALE had just arrived in a tractor-train (piste machines (same type as
those used in ski resorts)) loaded with fuel drums.
Tractor train leaving camp at Union Glacier.
As a Twin Otter has to
refuel on its way to the pole, they used to fly the fuel depot up by plane and
then the fuel gets really expensive. Some years ago they tried to drive out a
“train” with fuel loaded on sledges, and it turned out to be way more fuel
efficient than flying it. And when we started digging out the weather station,
it soon became obvious that the piste machine would come in handy also for the
digging. The base of the weather station was more than 3 meters (10 ft) down in
hard, wind packed snow. Using the piste machine we could make a big hole next
to the mast and then dig in to the instruments from the side. The flight to and
from Thiels was spectacular, and to take in the vastness of the Antarctic
landscape you actually need some time. The glaciers here are endless.
however, you almost forget where you are. Life is quite simple with most
facilities we are used to from home. Most of everyday life happens in one of
our big “Weather Haven” tents.
The kitchen and dining room tent is warm around
the clock, and this season we have also got a kind of “running water”. Snow is
shoveled into a big tank outside the tent and a Webasto water heater (same kind
as you can mount in a vehicle) melts the snow and warms up the water. It runs
on jet fuel. A similar unit is mounted in a smaller tent and connected to two
showers. Luxury! For preparing food we use propane, and at night the big tents
are warmed up by diesel stoves also running on jet fuel. Electric power is
basically from solar panels and batteries connected to an inverter. This is
backed up by a generator for cloudy days. Our workshop/garage is also in a
Weather Haven tent, and they probably use their generators a bit more than in
the dining tent to run tools and other electric equipment.
personal “house” is not as spacious as the roof top tent, but a Mountain
Hardware mountain tent has enough room for the two of us and some clothes and
equipment. And the weird thing is that the temperature inside the tent is kind
of like a normal room temperature. This far south we have sun 24 hours a day,
and the tents heat up surprisingly well. Slightly colder during the night, but
the big down sleeping bag that we used high up in the Andes Mountains is way
too warm for these temperatures. Next time I’ll bring the summer sleeping bag.
AntarcticaPosted by Malin Fri, November 18, 2011 02:31:52
So what is this talk about
flying south? When I am not driving the Patrol together with Espen I work as a
chef, and my last jobs have been in rather cold places.
When we started planning an
overland trip our first plan was to travel in South America, but then I got
offered a job as a chef at Catlin Arctic Surveys camp in the Canadian Arctic.
After five great summer seasons working in Antarctica, being able to working in
the Canadian Arctic for 2 ½ months was too tempting to let down. With that our
first plan changed and we said we would start our overland travel in North
America and then travel down to South America.
Catlin Arctic Survey’s camp
was put up on the sea ice west of Ellef Ringnes Island in the
territory of Nunavut, Canada (78°45’N 103°30’W), and camp staff were there to
support scientists doing their work on ocean acidification. You can read more
about the Catlin Arctic Survey on http://www.catlinarcticsurvey.com/ At
the most we were 11 people in camp, and it was a great group of people to work
with. Living on the sea ice for a while was an amazing experience. When we
first put up camp, the nights were dark, but for every day the sun got higher
and higher above the horizon and in the end we had midnight sun. The changing
light and the ice formations is what I remember best from the Arctic because it
is different from everything else I have seen. We did not see any polar bears, and
even if I would have liked to see one I was glad not to encounter one in our
Here is a short video that
was made about my job in the Arctic. http://www.catlinarcticsurvey.com/2010/12/15/extreme-cooking-2/
While I was enjoying myself
in the Arctic, Espen flew to Florida and picked up the Patrol. He had a detour
to Moab, and then headed north to pick me up in Calgary when I flew out from
Resolute. From Calgary we headed north to Alaska and Prudhoe Bay, where we
turned around, and from there we have traveled south for 17 months. Now we are
at the end of the road on the American continent, and a while back I signed up
for my sixth season as a chef for ALE Antarctic Logistic & Expeditions (http://www.antarctic-logistics.com/)
in their camp at Union Glacier. ALE flies to Antarctica from Punta Arenas,
Chile (next to Tierra del Fuego), and it is just one long day driving from
Ushuaia. Arriving in Punta, Espen told me that this was probably the first and
only time he would drive me to work….
In Punta Arenas it was time
to re-pack going from an overland travel to go to work three months in
This is more or less all the stuff I will bring with me onto the
ice. Now we just have to wait for the weather (http://www.yr.no/place/Antarctica/Other/Union_Glacier/long.html )
in Union Glacier to cooperate so the Ilyushin IL76 can fly the 3060 km (4 hours
and 15 minutes) to get to the camp at S 79 46’40’’ W 83 19’15’’.
The runway in
Antarctica is a blue ice runway and here is a photo from a previous season when
we went out for a stroll on the runway.
Union Glacier Camp is a tent camp, but
a much larger one than the one in the Arctic. At Union Glacier we can get up to
130 people in camp at the most. This season will be a bit different from the
others as Espen also got a job on the ice doing dishes and helping in the
kitchen. Since we both will be in Antarctica for 2 -3 months we will try to
write a couple of blog updates on camp life from the ice. Enjoy the comfort
living with a heated house and with running water while waiting for our first
update from the frozen continent J