The Indian Traverse

By and large, my Mondays here haven’t felt like the archetypical “Monday”, but today really does. Still holding off a bit of a cold, and haven’t been sleeping well. Brain not operating at 100%. This morning, I was sure Comms had announced over the PA “Attention, South Pole: the Canadian churros are in visual range.”  In fact, they’d announced that the Indian traverse was in visual range, but I’m still trying to get the image of Tina, peering through her binoculars at the Comms office in search of multinational dessert confections rolling into view across the windswept Antarctic plains.

But yes, the Indian traverse made it in, just before lunch. I’ll admit that before I got to Pole, I kept hearning the term “traverse” as a noun, and had no clue what people were talking about. So let me illuminate: a “traverse” is when a convoy of land vehicles sets out to traverse the continent. Usually to get to the South Pole. In USAP, when people talk about “The Traverse”, they’re almost always talking about the one dragging truckloads of fuel and frozen supplies across the Ross Ice shelf from McMurdo and up over the trans-Antarctic range to the Pole. Without the traverse, we wouldn’t be able to get enough fuel, etc. for the station to survive the 8-month winter isolation. (Note: this year’s traverse had mechanical problems somewhere on the Ross shelf, dropped their fuel cache where they were, and headed back to Mudtown for repairs. I think they’ve since repaired, returned to the fuel and are on their way as we speak. Er, write.)

Needless to say, it’s a big thing when The Traverse pulls into Pole. But this wasn’t The Traverse; it was a traverse, apparently sponsored by India and/or coming from the Indian base on the coast. I’d been helping with the food pull, and banishing thoughts of churros, grabbed my camera to capture the grand arrival. Apparently, though, the Indian traverse is a wee bit smaller than The Traverse. Instead of a massive convoy lugging half a years’ worth of supplies, the Indian traverse appeared to consist of two snow machines carrying about 8 people up from the coast.

Didn’t get much of a chance to talk with the arriving Indians, other than to pick up that there was some disagreement among them whether they’d been 6 days in transit or 8. I presume that this was more of a scientific transit than anything else – taking measurements and the like. Anyhow, they seemed to be greatly relieved to be out of their vehicles and in the station, especially arriving just in time for lunch. I didn’t have the heart to stick around to see their reaction to what our usually superb kitchen folks had perhaps wishfully labeled “Tandoori chicken”. Extremely tasty, it was. Tandoori? Not so much (To be clear: I’m not faulting anyone here – we’re at the South Pole, and access to a proper Tandoori cooking oven might be just a bit too much to ask for, eh?)

Anyhow. The Indian traverse has arrived.

In other news, a lot of questions I had about the station are nicely answered in the South Pole Station Guide. I asked and got permission to post a link here, for your reading pleasure: http://somerandom.com/cohn/pablo-at-the-pole/SPGuide.pdf; be sure to check out the maps near the end of the guide – enjoy!

3 responses to “The Indian Traverse

  1. Actually, Pablo, the station can get enough AN8 jet fuel to last the winter just from the LC-130s. The traverse isn't done every year. It is very expensive to get fuel there by flying it in, so the traverse is used as a supplemental source. The traverse is so efficient because it brings in much more fuel at once than the individual LC-130s can while only using enough fuel to run the tractors that pull it.

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