A journey of a thousand kilometres begins with mechanical work

Winter preparations for a summer traverse

Traversing across Antarctica …. it sounds like a pretty cool and simple idea as it rolls off the tongue with ease. But when you get into the finer details of it, you realise there are a lot of moving parts in getting prepared for a multi-tractor-sled-van-equipment Traverse Project. The AAD's new traverse capability is planned to head some 1200 kilometres inland from Casey Station to Little Dome C, which is at an elevation of around 3,200m. Little Dome C is the location where the Australian Antarctic Program will be establishing its million-year-ice-core (MYIC) camp to drill for deep ice core samples.

I’m a relatively new member to the traverse team, here for the 2022 season at Casey to help prepare for the traverse. It has been a rapid learning experience to get up to speed with some of the finer details and the ins and outs of the project. Even now, approaching midwinter, every day presents something new to nut out or learn about this mammoth project - and the extreme challenges it presents.

As a mechanic on the team there have been some unexpected learnings. For instance, learning some German like ‘Kühlwassertemp’ and ‘Motoröldruck’. In English, these translate to ‘cooling water temp’ and ‘engine oil pressure’ respectively.

Now you’re probably wondering why an Australian mechanic would need to know German? Well, some of our machines were made by a German company and a lot of the diagnostics remain in German, despite the settings being set to English … go figure! This is just one of many of the quirks of the job, hence there is rarely a dull moment at work down here.

With the majority of the project's sleds and vehicles stored here on the icy continent, there is plenty of testing and maintenance to be done to prepare them for the coming traverse. On top of this, there is constant maintenance to keep the snow at bay around all the traverse sleds. We recently travelled up to the traverse staging area (about an hour’s drive from station - where a fair portion of our equipment is located) to clean up some of the snow that had accumulated around the traverse sleds. With this being such a clear day, it meant we had some pretty cool views while finishing our work!

- Gavin Lind (Traverse Team)