I had thought of a lot of humorous titles for this blog post – “Three men and a caboose” “The big, the flat and the white” “The one Ronne” “Antarctic Bin Men” etc but settled on I-Beam and the Ronne Ice Shelf. I have just got back from my main project of this (Antarctic) summer season called “I-Beam”, based on the Ronne Ice Shelf. This project was a traverse that was purely logistics, cleaning up from previous large drilling projects and putting equipment and fuel in place for a drilling project at a depot called “Beamish” in 2017. I had no idea what to expect as I flew out to meet Tim and Dave who had already been out there for quite a few weeks. All I knew was that I would have to use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to look for crevassing when we were travelling on new routes and we would be living in a Caboose (Caravan on skis). During the two months I was with the project we would also have an airdrop of fuel from the RAF and meet a german ship called the polarstern to offload some cargo and give them a vast amount of Antarctic rubbish. I flew in a few days before christmas and was quickly struck by the vast whiteness of being on an ice shelf and the vast amounts of equipment we had. If you have images of Antarctica with dog sleds and fur mittens you should probably stop reading now. One of the tractors (some of my skiing friends might recognise these pisten bullies) towing the caboose. There are actually a few other sledges behind the caboose here but they’re covered in snow. One of the realities of living with everything on the roof of your house in boxes is that it always takes a long time to find anything.
Inside the caboose looking towards the kitchen
Christmas dinner anyone? Yep – thats parsnips, brussel sprouts, turkey, stuffing and roast potatoes. Tim (traverse leader) sorting out his Lego advent calendar. Christmas eve was spent putting together lego space ships.
Dave looking very happy about the Stella Artois and a large cheese board. Tim and Dave tucking into Christmas Dinner (we had a bit more than just the boil in the bag stuff in the other image. A big bottle of port and the Father Ted Christmas special on the laptop.My skidoo with Radar sledge. Christmas turned out to be a brief respite from moving lots of very heavy stuff around or driving for very long days. When travelling on unknown areas I would drive the Skidoo in front of the tractors looking for any signs of crevassing. Driving days were usually 10-15 hours long with one 30min break to refuel the machines and ourselves.
My view on a driving day – the flat white and the GPR screen and GPS. Driving in a straight line whilst simultaneously looking at the GPS, the GPR and the ground in front of me turned out to be the main challenge. Needless to say I got through a lot of music and audiobooks on my Ipood.One of the pisten bullies with 3 sledges loaded with rubbish headed for our meeting with the Polarstern. (The red blob behind is another skidoo on a different type of sledge covered with snow)
Dave adopting the co-passenger position. On known routes I did some driving to give Dave or Tim a break or slept/read in their passenger seats. The pisten bullies would travel at about 10-12km an hour but can tow around 50 tonsGetting fuel in place. A major part of our work on the Ronne was getting supplies in place for the future. The Pisten Bully here is driving up to a berm already loaded with fuel barrels towing 120 200L barrels. Everything is put on berms so that the snow doesnt drift over the top of it.
The flat white with a line of berms. This is the “Three Ronnes Depot” near the ice shelf edge. By the time we were finished the line of berms was over 2km long. The tiny black dot on the left of the skyline is the Caboose.Unloading barrels with the Pisten Bully.