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Norwegian-American Scientific Traverse of East Antarctica

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Heavy traffic at the Recovery Lakes

by Ole Tveiten — last modified 2009-02-22 22:54

We believed ourselves to be alone on the Plateau! For almost three weeks we have been seeing nothing but snow and wide horizons. But after a few hours of driving today the radio crackled. It was our ”lead dog” Stein calling: ”Stopping to take pictures of some ski tracks!”

Location:  83° 15’ S,  20° 12’ E
Weather: Fair, -22 C, wind 2 kts

Was he hallucinating?  Oh no, fresh ski tracks did indeed cross our track, coming in from the north east.  Then, a few minutes after our stop, two tiny specks appeared on the horizon.  We just had to deviate from our GPS-line to investigate, and out there we met Pete (62) and Tess (60) from England.  As it turned out, they are on their way towards the South Pole, with Norwegian skis and sleds, participating in an event named “the South Pole Race” which is claimed to be the first race for the South Pole since Amundsen’s and Scott’s.  According to our new friends, an English and a Norwegian team are currently neck and neck in the lead, so history repeats itself.  Pete and Tess had a more relaxed approach to the racing part, and happily accepted our invitation to a cup of coffee and an opportunity to send an email home.

Half an hour further ahead on our way to Recovery Lake B, two more specks appeared in the distance.  As if an encounter with two lone skiers wasn’t enough, we ran into oncoming car traffic in the middle of Antarctica!  Two shiny, black Toyota Arctic Trucks with huge tyres and fuel drums on a trailer pulled up to a stop between our vehicles.  Out popped 6 surprised and cheerful persons from Norway, England and Iceland – the support crew of the South Pole Race. Among them were a medical doctor, and film crews from BBC and Norwegian Broadcasting making documentaries of the race.  We lost an hour of driving, but were compensated with happy chats, and exchanges of news and experiences.  Of course there also turned out to be stories about mutual friends and acquaintances, and the general agreement. The globe is indeed getting smaller than we used to believe.

The story does not end here.  Having set up night camp after a record driving distance of 101,5 kms, even more specks showed up on the horizon to the west.  Could it be a fuel depot, a wrecked space ship – or even more skiers?.  While we were having a late dinner, one of the specks started closing in, and shortly after we had the Norwegian photographer Petter Nyquist among us.  The specks out to the west turned out to be the base camp and starting point for the race, at 83 degrees south.

Three ”close encounters of the third kind” in a day – a truly weird day on the Antarctic Plateau!  But tomorrow we are certain to continue our way into splendid solitude again, on our way through the ”Lake District”.


The lead dog ’Lasse’ encounters two of its kin – although of somewhat uncertain pedigree. Photo: Ole Tveiten

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