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Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

30 December 2011

On what's next!

On the brink of 2011 and with Friede almost finished (pics tomorrow, I think) I have wandered off again into the land of What's Next. 
Again, I think of an idea that leaves (real) space aside for a little while longer but has a lot to do with exploring and discovering new places.
Since I was young, I was fascinated by this picture of an orange vehicle on tracks in the snow, being trapped in a crevasse , hanging on to both sides with its tracks just barely touching the edges.

Oh sh*t.

The vehicle, I learned was a Tucker Sno-Cat, a means of transport specially designed for polar expeditions. These orange ones (three of them in total) were used in the epic Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1955 - 1958. It was a very daring undertaking.


An English team, led by Dr. Vivian Fuchs, sailed to the Antarctic in 1955 and landed in the Vahsel Bay, close to the most southern point of South America. There, he established a base camp for his expedition and called it Shackleton Base, after the great British explorer whose crew spent a whole Antarctic winter when their ship got stuck in the ice. After some major setbacks in the base camp the first year (equipment and supplies lost in a blizzard), Fuchs returned the next "summer" and established an advanced camp further down the line to the South Pole for refurbishing the expedition. After another winter Fuchs set off from Shackleton Base in November 1957 with three Sno-Cats, a Weasel - another track vehicle, dog sleds and with the back-up of an aeroplane.
The Maga Dan, the vessel on which the crossing expedition arrived.

Around the same time in 1957, at Ross Island at the other side of the continent, Sir Edmund Hillary, the famous explorer from New Zealand had established another base camp for the Trans-Antarctic expedition to arrive to, called Scott Base. He too set off to create small refurbishment camps en route from the South Pole for the expedition crew. His journey was made by converted tractors which were equipped with tracks around their wheels - and they also had a plane as a back-up and a Weasel track vehicle which they abandoned on the way.

(Still taken from the 1958 documentary about the expedition)
The journey of the crossing party was hard, already early on they had to traverse through a long and wide field of risky crevasses hidden under the snow and they advanced only at a footpace. Unfortunately, despite all their efforts to detect the hidden gaps, the Sno-Cats sometimes fell into a crevasse. They had to dig them out and use aluminium ramps with which they supported the tracks. Such a happening cost them a 24 hour delay. They advanced more quickly after they had cleared the 48 KM long field but it took them a very long time. They arrived at their south camp and set off for the second leg of the journey: to reach the South Pole. A dog sled team was sent in advance to explore the route ahead.

(Stills taken from the 1958 documentary about the expedition)
As Sir Edmund Hilary's crew was much faster and still up for more, he decided they as well could go on and try and reach the South Pole itself, just for fun and beating the British to it. So on they went. And they made it, with their tractors. The 3rd of january 1958, Sir Edmund Hilary and his crew were only the third party that had reached the South pole over land, right after Scott and Amundsen in 1911/12 and the first to do so with land vehicles. (the polar station was made by air transports.)
There they awaited the crossing crew. Fuchs' team soon had met up with the dog sled team and together they arrived at the 19th of January, the three Sno-Cats still working and with plenty of fuel. 

Arrival at the South Pole.
After a press conference at the American/U.N. base there, they went on to the Ross Plateau. This part already being covered by Sir Edmund Hilary's crew, this leg of the trip was much easier and quicker. They reached Scott Base the second of March 1958, escorted by Edmund Hilary, who had flown back and joined the expedition for the last leg of the 3.473 KM long journey. It took them 99 days.

So, to cut a long story short, I found a paper model of a Sno Cat. I think I might make a diorama out of it. Not sure yet on how big/small and whether to depict the crevasse scene or something else.

And I want to wish all of you reading this a very happy, prosperous and good new year.
Thanks for being here.
-PK.

(The fascinating video of the expedition (about an hour split in 5 parts is on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.
If you want to know more, here's the Wiki.)
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