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Dangerous driving

Nicola, Monday 29 March 2010

Temperature: - 14.5°C
Wind speed: 19 knots
Temp with wind chill: -38°C
Sunrise: 7.17am
Sunset: 8.43pm

At Scott Base our nearest neighbours are the Americans at McMurdo Base, a couple of kilometres away along a road that winds through the pass between Observation and Crater Hills.

On the road to McMurdo with Observation Hill in the background © AHT, N Dunn

On the road to McMurdo with Observation Hill in the background © AHT, N Dunn

Until now the road has been easy to drive but yesterday, just as I was leaving McMurdo, the weather suddenly changed from a clear day to our first ‘condition 1’ storm. A strong southerly wind whipped up the snow so it was impossible to see the road ahead or the posts that mark the steep drop beside it, so I took shelter until it had passed.

When I headed back an hour later the road was covered with snow drifts and it was a good reminder that if not fully prepared even the simplest journey can be hazardous. Each of the 4 wheel drive vehicles are kitted out with sleeping bags, shovels and radios, and we always travel with our extreme cold weather clothing in case we get stuck or break down.

Nicola driving the vehicle through a snow drift © Antarctica New Zealand, Steven Sun

Nicola driving the vehicle through a snow drift © Antarctica New Zealand, Steven Sun

Antarctic driving is a skill and Lex, the Base Mechanic, recently took us out onto the ice for a fun-filled half hour to practice controlling the vehicle in deep snow drifts. So now we’ll feel more confident driving over the hill in the months ahead.

2 Responses to “Dangerous driving”

  1. sandy says:

    Fascinating post. And to think, we’ve been complaining about the winter weather here in the UK.!

    I just wondered how you actually learn to drive in these conditions? Presumably you have to have some experience driving in similar - if not identical - conditions before travelling.


  2. Nick Mayo says:

    Hello Nicola.

    Greetings from sunny Australia, we’ve had our first frosts for 2010, but nothing like your snow drifts.

    Looks like tonnes of fun - mint ‘in it - I love driving in the snow and used to do it for 5 years when I worked in Kosciuszko National Park here in southern Australia.

    I hope the Easter bunny was able to drive to Scott Base?

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