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Rough terrain smashes Antarctic vehicles



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F O R T H E P R E S S (R eleased on ly in C anberra)

DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS,

CANBERRA.

PR 1 4 8

17th December, 1963.

Rough T e r r a in Smashes A n ta r c tic V e h ic le s

S tatem en t by th e D epartm ent o f E x te rn a l A f f a ir s

An e x te n s iv e f i e l d survey le d by R ic h ard S a x to n , O f f ic e r

i n Charge o f th e A u s tr a lia n A n ta r c tic S ta tio n a t W ilkes, has been h a lte d by

v e h ic le f a i l u r e s i n rough c o u n try . On 2 8 th Septem ber a six-m an p a r ty le d by

Saxton (s e e p re s s r e le a s e d a te d 6 th O ctober FR.113) l e f t W ilkes by t r a c t o r t r a i n

t o c a r r y out ic e d e p th d e te rm in a tio n s and g la c i o lo g ic a l o b s e r v a tio n s over th e

ic e p la te a u t o th e s o u th - e a s t o f th e S ta tio n . T r a v e llin g i n tra c k e d v e h ic le s

draw ing h e a v ily - lo a d e d .s le d g e s , th e p a r ty was plagued by b a d .w e a th e r d u rin g th e

e a r ly s ta g e s o f th e jo u rn e y , when winds o f up to 90 k n o ts and dense blow ing

. snow slow ed t h e i r p ro g re s s t o only 50 m ile s i n 15 d a y s. At one tim e th e men

were b liz z a rd -b o u n d f o r 7 c o n se c u tiv e d a y s.

On 22nd O ctober t e r r a i n was e n te r e d 150 m ile s s o u th -

s o u th e a s t from W ilkes which had n o t been tr a v e r s e d b e fo re and th e main se ism ic

programme was s t a r t e d . T h is in v o lv e d b o rin g h o le s 150 f e e t deep in to th e ic e

-and u s in g s e is m ic e x p lo sio n te c h n iq u e s t o measure ic e th ic k n e s s e s up to 10,000

f e e t I n d e p th . The p a r ty pushed on f o r a n o th e r 150 m ile s , c o l l e c t i n g g r a v ity

"m easurem ents, g la c i o lo g ic a l o b s e rv a tio n s and w eath er d a ta ev ery 3 m ile s . Of

th e 18 days ta k e n f o r t h i s s ta g e , tw elve were l o s t becau se o f bad w e a th e r. The

c o n d itio n o f th e p la te a u " s u rfa c e s t e a d i l y d e te r io r a te d d u rin g t h i s p e rio d and th e

v e h ic le s had to n e g o tia te w ind-carved r id g e s from 3 t o . 8 f e e t h ig h . These caused

th e s le d g e s to o v e rtu rn on a number o f o c ca sio n s and damaged th e tow ing v e h ic le s

an d th e heavy m e c h a n ic a l■ic e d r i l l . .

At a p o in t 300 m ile s from. W ilkes th e p a r ty h a lte d a t an

a l t i t u d e o f 4»800 f e e t f o r a week to c a r ry out d e t a i l e d g la c i o lo g ic a l i n v e s t i g a t i o n s .

T hen, on November 19t h ; th e men pushed on a g a in , in te n d in g to c o v er a f u r t h e r 250

m ile s . However,, a f t e r ' t r a v e l l i n g only a few m ile s , th e (Chassis o f th e main, t r a c t o r

f r a c t u r e d . The m assive s t e e l g ir d e r in v o lv e d had. f a i l e d under th e abnormal f le x in g

in v o lv e d i n bumping over·-the h ig h snow rid g e s a t te m p e ra tu re s a s low a s minus 50

. d e g re e s F a h re n h e it. Two*mechanics sp en t two days w elding th e damaged p a r t s .

. .However, a s in s p e c tio n showed o th e r m etal f a tig u e s i n th e v e h ic le s and a s w e ld in g

s u p p lie s were now s h o r t, Saxton r e g r e t f u l l y tu rn e d f o r home.

More e x te n s iv e s c i e n t i f i c work w i l l be done on th e r e t u r n

t r i p a n d 'th e p a r ty e x p e c ts to re a c h W ilkes on 15t h J a n u a ry .