14.11.2011 00:01

Day 5

We are currently at SANAE IV station and had some time to consider the bigger picture and all options available to us.

It would appear that no expedition which has chosen Queen Maud Land as their starting point isn't making any progress and has to contend with the same sastrugi problems. Dixie and Sam (www.antarcticice.be) on the polar plateau are averaging about 4km/day in their first week, or a total of 27km. Insignificant distances considering their goal of covering 7,000km. David and Eric (www.sebastiancopelandadventures.com) have covered 72km in just over 10 days.

Of course we wish all expeditions lots of luck and only the best, however it is good to know that we didn't do anything wrong or lacked diligence and professionalism in our preparations – and that everyone is stuck in sastrugis and has to deal with the same situation at this point in time. It is simply impossible to pull our heavy sleds for more than 6 hours a day and gain the necessary distance through the sastrugi canyons.

Here in the mountains around SANAE IV station there is no going forward! We were re-considering a route we had previously discarded due to heavy crevasse areas and steep glacial flows. However, for us, it is just not worth both the considerable risk to our health and lives and given the sastrugi fields we can see from here, not exactly too promising either.

We were naturally curious about how these mega sastrugi fields could have been created and how come they seem to be so wide spread throughout Queen Maud Land. We are extremely blessed to be here at SANAE with a top meteorologist and satellite images of 3 'super storms' that have ravaged Queen Maud land over the past couple months give a plausible explanation. All three expeditions are experiencing the legacy of these severe and significant storms (with wind speed in excess of 160km/h) in form of monster sastrugis across the entire Queen Maud Land.

If this is true, and in a way it makes sense, then it would seem that conditions at 10? East (polar plateau by Novo) would be similar to 20? East (plateau where Dixi is right now), in which case progress would be extremely tough or impossible time wise. Of course we don't know the depth of the sastrugi fields deeper into the continent and if we were to start at 72,5? South and 10? East the South Easterly winds would actually be helpful to us for kiting because we have to make it to 80? South and 6? West for our depot. Kiting would only be possible however if surface conditions are somewhat manageable.

Even in the relatively sheltered Schirmmacher Oasis near Novo station there have been report of lots of snow deposits and large sastrugis, which never happens there.

For now, weather permitting of course, we will fly back to Novo tomorrow, Wednesday, November 16th. Right now, looking out the window, there are strong gale force winds (80 km/h +) and very limited visibility due to blowing snow. All we can say is that for now we are grateful not to be directly in the elements at this time. :-)

Armin and Dieter

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