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Cargo, Cargo Everywhere

November 14, 2008

SOUTH POLE STATION, ANTARCTICA– So far in this trip, the main goal of the team has been to sort and pack our cargo. We have 21,000 lbs going out to Camp Winter alone, not including the food and supplies for the trip from South Pole to Troll which we will start mid-December. I personally, have dreams about stacks of wooden boxes on pallets and TCN numbers (the cargo tracking numbers assigned to all our boxes in the US Antarctic Program).

Our science cargo. The white boxes are used to ship the ice cores that we take in one meter sections.

This box is going to Camp Winter (CW).

I’d like to think that we have one of the most well-organized, well-sorted, 10 ton piles of cargo ever produced. Every box has been inventoried to the item–all the bolts, wrenches, rolls of toilet paper, peanuts, candy bars, rolls of duct tape–weighed, measured, and sorted several times in terms of priority, in terms of tasks needed to be accomplished, and in terms of the flights, which continuously change on us. If we get 5 flights into camp instead of 6, it means something has to be left behind. And that something must not be important. Flights are pretty flexible here due to weather, which can be bad here or at McMurdo, where most of the planes are coming from, or because of conditions, such as the fairly rough ones out at the vehicles. This means that we have to be flexible—we’re talking contortionist-flexible.

Just how rough was it? The team consults with the Twin Otter pilot before the first flight to Camp Winter about how bad the surface was for his recon flight.

We were supposed to have two Twin Otter flights into Camp Winter, but due to the rough surface and possible damage that could be inflicted on the plane, the pilot only wanted to do one more flight to bring in passengers. The pilot told Einar that the surface wasn’t the worst he’s ever experienced, but that it was pretty bad. This is understandable, but meant that we had to scramble this morning to reprioritize what cargo should go on the plane, once again. And hopefully, the flight we are losing now in the Twin Otter won’t mean we have too much cargo for the remaining three Basler flights.

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