(28 November 2014, Antarctica) Day 7: In their quest for the South Pole, the Antarctica2 tractor and crew were at last able to get fully into their stride, clocking up 23 hours non-stop travel.
Driving in long and tiring shifts, the team completed just over 167 km yesterday before hitting an area of soft snow which made the last 10-20 km extremely slow-going. Ending the day at an elevation of 3364m (11,036 feet) and, having climbed fairly quickly from sea level, crew members are suffering bad headaches from the altitude. Due to the lack of atmospheric pressure here, the effects of altitude are amplified and, for the team, physically it feels more like 4000m. This simply adds a further layer of difficulty to the very exhausting days.
Much softer ground conditions with areas of deep snow are a stark contrast to the hard-packed sastrugi ice-waves of previous days. In these conditions, focused driving skills are essential. At one point towards the end of a gruelling 15-hour shift for Lead Mechanic, Nicolas Bachelet, the tractor sank up to its belly and had to be dug out. Lead Driver, Manon Ossevoort spent the last section of her shift also negotiating the deep snow. Every 100 metres or so the tractor hit a soft patch and had to be repeatedly switched from forward to reverse to extricate itself.
Such were the demands of the day, the whole team fell into bed leaving only Expedition Lead Guide Matty McNair to file the day’s report back to base. Antarctica2 is testing man and machine to the limits.