I got to go on my first “Boondoggle”! OK so maybe it wasn’t exactly a boondoggle if there was no plane or helicopter involved, but I was still the best (and slowest) road trip I’ve ever been on.
So to clarify, a “boondoggle” is when you get to be an extra (usually on a helicopter or fixed wing flight) to a field camp because there is an extra seat and they can use an extra person for shoveling out a fuel bladder or other, usual manual labor intensive, purpose.
We’ll I was getting up from the table at the galley to fill my water glass when someone stopped me and said “You’re with the WAIS camp, right?” I was like “yup, why?” so he said that his buddy needed a second person for a task – he had to go out to get a tractor and bring this sled around to the ice pier by discovery hut. Basically I was just an extra person for safety reasons you have to bring a buddy in case something happens on the sea ice. (I seriously need to make myself a tee shirt that says “Hired for my brain but used for my body” and on the back it could say “Property of USAP”.
So I was like… “sure I can move some things around and help you out”. (Ya know, move a few meetings around, blah blah blah – I’ve got time on my hands) I had no idea the afternoon I had in store. So I ran back to my room and threw on my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather Gear) cause you never know if the tractor breaks down on the sea ice and you’re stuck out spooning a seal for warmth.
I met him at the shuttle stop and we were driven way out of town, past Scott Base (the Kiwi station), past where you can see the ice shelf breaking into chunks up against the shore down the “snow road” to the flat perfectly white snow where there was a set up for the South Pole Traverse. (I’m going to do a blog post just about the Traverse soon, totally interesting!!)
He gave me a tour of the vehicles of the Traverse (pics coming in the Traverse post) and had me climb up into this giant tractor, in the jump seat next to him. He drove out to pick up the sled, hooked it on with the giant metal cords and had me climb into the drivers seat. I got to drive this massive piece of machinery pulling the sled behind miles down the road (going at about 8 mph max cause thats only as fast as you are supposed to go) until the turn off. After the turn off, after slowing this massive machine down slowly so that our load doesn’t smack us from behind he took over to cross from the ice shelf to the Ice Sheet and back to McMurdo.