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Online Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2016, 09:02:33 am »
Excellent stuff, keep it coming.

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1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

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Offline XRRX

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2016, 12:23:44 pm »
Speaking about a "dream adventure" !!!  :o
Thanks Kortbroek for sharing this!!  :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2016, 12:26:55 am »
The last few weeks have been a bit hectic on my side so I’m a bit tardy with writing. I’ll try and post as I have time, I don’t want to write this half arsed.

Part 3

So finally, after almost 3 weeks on the ship and having stared at the ice for days I was in a Huey thundering over the ice shelf on my to SANAE IV. So a few days before we had put all our luggage in a container that was offloaded onto the ice at ATKA Bukta and it would be making its way to SANAE on the cat train. Everything I needed for the last few days on board and the first few days at SANAE until the cargo arrived had to fit in a backpack that had to be under a certain weight limit for the heli flight. For the flight you also had to dress in full ECW (Extreme Cold Weather Clothing) comprised of thermal underwear, shirt, soft shell/fleece, thick padded jacked, thick padded winter dungarees, koflack type arctic boots with inners, beanie, buffs, gloves and snow goggles. All of this is if we have to put down on the ice during the 150km flight. If my memory is correct the flight took about 1h20min or so and as you progress inland the flat featureless ice shelf gradually has more nunataks(hills/rock outcrops) sticking up through the ice and then eventually of in the distance over the pilots shoulder I could see the vague outline of the base, perched on the edge of a large cliff on a nunatak with the name Vesleskarvet at 71°40′22″S 2°50′26″W . As we approached to land I could make out the large diesel bunkers a small distance from the base and the still mostly sastrugi covered cargo depot adjacent with the base perched on the southern buttress.

Ice Shelf as we flew away from the ship.


Pilots view from the cockpit flying over the featureless flat expanse of the Antarctic ice shelf.


What the floating ice shelf looks like from the air.


The first nunataks poking through the ice. We are only now reaching the actual continental coast.


Vesleskarvet and SANAE IV coming into view.


First proper sight of the base.


Summer depot and diesel bunkers from the air as we come in to land.


The base layout is as follows (shamelessly copied from Wikipedia)  ::)

“SANAE IV consists of three linked modules, each double-story, 44 metres (144 ft) long and 14 metres (46 ft) wide. Two smaller nearby structures contain the satellite dish used for communications and the diesel fuel bunkers. Joined end-on-end in a north-south orientation, the base modules are complemented on the northern end by a large raised helicopter landing area with a lifting section allowing vehicles to be brought up into the hangar for maintenance.
C-block, the northern-most module, contains the large hangar, generator room, workshop, water storage, sewage processing plant, equipment stores, offices of the mechanical and electrical engineers, flight operations office, gymnasium and sauna. The neutron monitors of the North-West University are also housed in this area.
B-block, the middle module, contains the kitchen, dining area, two TV lounges, bar, games room, smoker's room, library, a laundry and accommodation units. (This is where the handover personnel and scientists stay).
A-block, the southern module, contains the radio room and communications hub, medical facility, darkroom, various research project offices, leader's office, two physics labs, wet lab, store-rooms, another laundry, and accommodation units. (These are the Overwintering team’s quarters).
The modules are linked by single-story connections that also serve as entrances with stairways down to the surface 4m below the base. Each link contains an entrance hall with two sets of doors (creating a rudimentary 'air-lock' to prevent excessive cooling when entering and exiting the base) as well as a change-room, ablution facility and electronic distribution boards.”

Base with snow buildup from the previous winter.


The base is built on stilts so snow would be blown free on not build up beneath the structure. This was an innovative South African design that would see other countries follow suit.


Snow clearing and dozing a ramp to offload stores and supplies into the base at the B-C link.


The cliff parking. Behind the cat is a 200+m cliff. There is a boundary rope as in a whiteout you would walk off it without seeing it as the background is so similar. Even on a clear day like in this photo it is not obvious.


View towards the south west from the cliff boundary.


View of the base and Cliff parking looking almost North.

« Last Edit: November 18, 2016, 12:39:43 am by Kortbroek »
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Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2016, 12:40:22 am »
During the takeover period of about one month when the old winter team hands over to the new team a myriad of personnel is hosted at the base. There can be up to 60 people at a push living and working there for the one month period with these comprised of scientific teams doing research in the base vicinity, the far field team like us that is there for a bit at the start and end of takeover, the public works dept team doing maintenance to the base, scientists and engineers maintaining/installing research projects and instruments at the base, the team of drivers from the military (tiffies) that transports the cargo to and from the coast, an earth moving and cargo handling team that clears snow and ice as needed and of course the two overwintering teams. This puts into perspective the size and complexity of this operation, all of it in a pretty inhospitable place.

Life at the base takes on a routine pretty quickly. After breakfast we would have a team meeting to decide what needs to happen on the day then set about it. Lunch and dinner was done in two sittings as the dining room could only accommodate about half the takeover personnel at a time. With a base designed to accommodate a team of 14 people permanently the water and sanitation systems can quickly become overwhelmed during takeover. Odd and even numbered rooms got to shower on odd and even numbered dates so shower every second day. Another part of base life, just like Tom v Brits mentioned in his Gough report is base skivvies. These are typically performed after dinner each night depending on the skivvy. The main daily skivvies was kitchen duty (help out in kitchen with cleaning, dishwashing) and smelly (shovelling snow and ice into the water smelter 3 – 4 times a day) with a massive base skivvie every Sunday that sees the base almost spring cleaned. Duties were rotated so that you get a different skivvy each week and your kitchen/smelly duties shift as well. For our team being only temporarily on the base for a few days meant a lot less skivvy than average (small bonus ). Meals at the base was FANTASTIC it should be said. Every year they get 2 chefs from the Navy in to cook the daily meal and the menu these guys put together is royal to say the least.  If I didn’t want to go to Antarctica for the ice/scenery/mountains I would almost do it just for the food.

For the first few days on the base we had little to do as we were waiting for our container with equipment to arrive so we were helping out wherever a hand was needed and catching up on some office work. I spent a lot of this time outside, throwing smelly and often helping the geomorphology team out where I could. During this time I also started teaching the necessary technical self-rescue skills to those that needed it. This involved things like how to use crampons, ice axes, ice tools etc to both move safely and to rescue someone who had fallen into a crevasse. For the base bound personnel this was mostly a nice to know but for the field teams it is crucial. We also got acquainted with our skidoos or snow mobiles during these first few days, 2T Yamaha vks540 twins. Now I am not that knowledgeable on snow bikes but these could hit a 100kmh if you wanted and although they wallowed a bit and were heavy, they could pull of small power wheelies if you had an lip to help them up. On the nice and level ice road from the summer depot up to the base we had some fun races, almost always without helmets (isn’t all this white stuff meant to be soft and fluffy?). Our safety setup for travel by skidoo is also quite interesting although hair raising. Each of us wears a climbing harness, we then attach ourselves with a leash to the skidoo. Then towing a sled the skidoo is attached to the sled with a tow rope that attached to the midpoint of the sled. The theory, and this has been tested by the British Antarctic Survey (I’m guessing not with actual people aboard) is that if you break through an ice/snow bridge and fall into a crevasse, the snow mobile is larger than you are so would get stuck before you and you would dangle from it and be able to climb out using your crampons, ice axe and ice screws or assistance from team members. If the crevasse was too large the sled would run horizontally over the tope and then being wider than the snow mobile so when it gets stuck both you and the snowmobile would dangle from it. If the crevasse is larger, well, the  your f*cked. This system has been tested and has a good success rate (so they say).

Skivvy duty, throwing smelly. Can be bloody hard work.


View to south west of the base.


View of Lorenzenpiggen to the south of the base with Grunnehogna in the far background, 60km away. Grunnehogna was the site of an old South African Geologists base that was abandonded during construction of SANAE IV. During the period Grunnehogna was used SANAE III was on the ice shelf at the coast.


At the windscoop near the base doing safety training during a partial whiteout.


Observing and helping the Rhodes University Geomorphology team as they set up and test their instruments and sensors.


It works!



During this period we of course had to fight of the boredom in the evenings somehow, so a lot of this was done in the bar. Now the bar here is self-stocked i.e. what you brought with you but there was also a large amount of team booze left over and we were only too glad to help out. This inevitably leads to an activity know as a dozer run. Now the main access doors to the base is in the two links namely A-B and B-C link. To get cargo into the base like food etc a snow ramp is bulldozed against the B-C link staircase. So at some unforsaken time of the night when you are suitably deep in the bottle and the sun sits over to the south, you would don your birthday suit in the bar and make a run for the B-C link door. Now the base is kept at a toasty 21deg C. When you open that door you find yourself going into -30deg C. It can be quite refreshing, so you really have to prepare well to ensure you don’t sober up at this point, you take a short run down the stairs and then head of down the ice/snow ramp sprinting for where the dozers are parked about 50m away on the cliff parking.  After rounding the nearest dozer you make a beeline back for that door and the now very appealing tropical climate of the Sastrugi Inn as the bar is known. I can attest that this is quite a daunting challenge no matter the state you find yourself in and had a gloriously massive wipeout to boot, much to the entertainment of an accompanying lass.
During these first few days at the base Christmas also arrived and we celebrated in style. The dining room was made up and the chefs prepared a feast of note. My memory betrays me but I remember cold meat platters, seafood cocktails, lambshanks and malva pudding to name a few. I remember another import fact here, if you are a carnivore, SANAE is the place for you with literally tons of prime steak, bacon, mince, wors etc, you can eat meat to your hearts content.
Christmas day was a day off for much of the personnel and someone got the bright idea to go build an igloo. For a few of us though this sounded too much like work and as everyone knows too many cooks spoil the broth, so we instead elected to dig a couch out of an adjoining snowdrift and observe, beer in hand.

Our luxury snow couch


Huey coming in to land on the heli deck outside C-Block.


View from the heli deck with heli about to head out and drop off our fuel depot.


Snow clearing around the base in full swing. They push the snow over the cliff edge, a dangerous carefully executed operation.


Storm clouds gathering. Storms here can blow up and stay for days or even weeks.

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Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2016, 12:40:36 am »
By now our cargo had arrived and preparations for the field was happening in earnest. Food for 4 people for two months had to be packed, tents, camping gear, scientific equipment, sleds had to be roped up and serviced, skidoos had to be checked and double checked including making sure we have enough spares, 640l of petrol had to be pumped into jerry cans for the outward journey with 8 jerries to each of the four sleds. Marker poles and flags had to be prepared for the camp and satellite images had to be monitored for crevasse fields and their movement along the planned 180km route from Vesleskarvet to the HU Sverdrupfjella. HF radios had to be checked and emergency procedures planned and discussed. Dates had to be set for fuel re supply by helicopter and two 220l fuels drums were flown out by heli to a depot site near our proposed camp. We had to wait a few days for a weather window for this flight as we could not leave the base without those drums in place as we would need that fuel to get back should there be problems.

Packing dry rations for the 4 of us. Not in the photo is the loads of steak, wors, mince, bacon and salami we also took with us.


HF radio quadpole antennae setup and tuning before packing it in a secure case. The equipment takes a beating on the sleds.


Last minute checks, we are good to go. Myself in a not so kort broek in the middle.


And then finally the day arrived. We had an early breakfast and slipped quietly out of a still slumbering base. We had loaded and secured our sleds the night before, our skidoos were fuelled and we were good to go. On the morning of 30 December 2014 we were finally off on the next great adventure.
On our way.

The actual riding had begun. It would see us cross the piencken and jutulstramen glaciers, two of the largest in the world, riddled with crevasse fields and set up camp in the region of the Rootshorga.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2016, 12:47:07 am by Kortbroek »
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Online Tom van Brits

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #25 on: November 18, 2016, 02:16:19 am »
2 Stroke Dan will be pleased to see the skidoos are YAMAHA!  :laughing4:
 

Offline Malcolm

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #26 on: November 18, 2016, 03:04:05 pm »
Awesome so far, thanks for taking the time to share this with us.
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Offline Kaboef

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #27 on: November 20, 2016, 08:43:59 am »
Awesome report Kortbroek.
What a life you have.

I read Ranulph Fiennes' book about him crossing Antarctica on foot. Have you read it? Hardcore. Very very hardcore.

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Offline Matewis

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2016, 06:57:47 am »
Awesome read!!
“Don’t go where the path my lead…  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2016, 09:11:31 am »
Awesome report Kortbroek.
What a life you have.

I read Ranulph Fiennes' book about him crossing Antarctica on foot. Have you read it? Hardcore. Very very hardcore.

I have read Ranulph Fiennes's books yes, amazing reading. The base they set up in the Borga is actually not far from where we passed by. His route was very simillar to our although he ended up passing further west over the Jutulstramen. Some of the Geology field teams had found their base again a few years after they used it. There are quite a few other small abandoned survey bases out there.
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Offline XRRX

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2016, 09:32:29 am »
Amazing white world !!! You're very privileged Kortbroek!!!  :thumleft:
 

Offline Pilchie

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2016, 09:06:36 pm »
wow, awesome adventure - thanks for sharing
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Offline Dirty Fun

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #32 on: November 22, 2016, 06:28:48 am »
Make the best of it.
 

Offline funky_munky

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #33 on: November 22, 2016, 08:36:04 am »
This is an awesome report. I really enjoy reading about other peoples adventures to places i doubt i shall ever see.

Seeing the world through other peoples eyes.
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Offline Goingnowherekwickly

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #34 on: November 22, 2016, 09:43:07 pm »
Wow!!
What an adventure !!
Can't wait for more, loving this...
Thanks for all the details, next installment please :)
 

Offline Sailorman

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #35 on: March 17, 2017, 12:15:06 pm »
Hi Kortbroek. Been waiting patiently for the rest
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Offline Knucklhead

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Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #36 on: March 17, 2017, 05:33:38 pm »
luvin this...

good looking lasses there too  >:D

 

Offline Goingnowherekwickly

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #37 on: March 19, 2017, 09:17:33 pm »
Are you still out there on the ice Kortbroek?!
We're getting worried...
 

Offline Kortbroek

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #38 on: March 20, 2017, 08:38:23 am »
I must get around to finishing this. I'll make work of it  :thumleft:
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Offline Poenabul

Re: Riding the Great White South and the journey to get there
« Reply #39 on: March 22, 2017, 07:55:03 am »
Really enjoying this one keep going
Don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree........