Saturday, 28 January 2012

On the raid

I write this sitting in the Raid's caravan, 110km away from Concordia station. We have
paused our journey through this empty white plain for the night. The snow road to DDU,
ravaged by our machines behind, drifted over but still clearly visible ahead, splits the
disc in half from horizon ahead to horizon behind. There is absolutely nothing here but us.
It is midnight, sunny, -37 degrees centigrade and incredibly still.

The raid I have joined is a very small one of a team of only four French guys plus myself,
driving three massive Challenger tractors and a pisten bully. Together we tow a fuel tank,
a cargo trailer and a caravan of three standard shipping containers, fitted out to be very
comfortable accomodation, another with a generator, snow melter, hot water supply, shower,
and spaces for scientific analyses, and a third which is a food store.

I drove the last challenger in the convoy of three all day today, and behind my machine I
towed a train of three container 'trailers' on skis. They are too heavy for one challenger
alone, so my tractor is attached by a ship's mooring line to another one ahead of me and
with radio communication we co-ordinate our driving.

Although you might expect the road to be a straight and even line all the way to the coast,
the years of passage have turned it into a tightly twisting, uneven, bumpy road. The
containers and tractors sway and lurch as we negotiate the track. I've driven 11 hours
today and as I sit here the room is swaying as if I had stepped off a sailing boat.

It will take us another nine days to cover the remaining 1000km to the coast. The guys are
great, the change is wonderful. But the days are going to be long. There simply hasn't
been any time to reflect on leaving Concordia, that is sadly going to have to wait.
Actually, one of the raid team is David, one of my fellow DC7 winterover crew. It's really
nice to be working with an old friend again.
Short post, sorry, up early tomorrow,

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