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Snow blows around a line of tractors and bladders.
Photo Credit: Ryan Wallace

Ultimate road trip

South Pole traverse covers 3,500 miles during the 2012-13 season

Talk about the ultimate road trip. The primary South Pole operations Traverse (SPoT) spent nearly 100 days away from McMurdo Station External U.S. government site during the 2012-13 season, traveling more than 3,500 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf External U.S. government site and East Antarctica. SPoT is a tractor train that hauls supplies and fuel using sleds in lieu of aircraft. The traverse stopped twice at the South Pole Station External U.S. government site, delivering about 140,000 gallons of fuel. The SPoT team also drove more than 800 miles roundtrip to an abandoned field camp to remove 80,000 pounds of cargo. On the homestretch, the team even picked up a science instrument nearby its route on the ice shelf that had flown around the continent aboard a high-altitude balloon. All that driving around saved the U.S. Antarctic Program External U.S. government site an estimated 65 LC-130 External U.S. government site flights. That makes those planes available for other missions around the continent, as well as saves fuel and carbon footprint.

Above, a windy day blows snow across the tractor train as it climbs the Leverett Glacier to the polar plateau. Below, a tractor pulls sleds containing fuel bladders in front of White Island near McMurdo Station.

Tractor pulls sleds across snowy area.
Photo Credit: Ryan Wallace