South Pole Traverse
|South Pole Traverse|
|McMurdo–South Pole Highway|
A red line indicating the path of the traverse
|Length:||995 mi (1,601 km)|
|Existed:||2007 – present|
|South end:||Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station|
|North end:||McMurdo Station|
|Transport in Antarctica|
The South Pole Traverse, also called the McMurdo–South Pole Highway, is an approximately 995-mile-long (1,601 km) compacted snow road in Antarctica that links the United States's McMurdo Station on the coast to the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. It was constructed by leveling snow and filling in crevasses, but is not paved; flags mark its route.
After four years of development, the trail is now operational, with Caterpillar and Case Corp. tractors pulling specialized sleds to deliver fuel and cargo to the South Pole in about 40 days. The return trip to McMurdo Station, with less fuel and cargo, is substantially quicker. Construction started during the 2002/03 southern summer field season. It was finished in the 2005/2006 southern summer.
The McMurdo Ice Shelf and the Antarctic Plateau are relatively stable. Most crevasses occur in the short steep shear zone between them, where the road climbs to more than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level. This section of the road needs maintenance each season. The section caused much more construction work than planned, because the ice sheets are likely to move.
The project was funded by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide a lower cost, potentially more reliable method of supplying the South Pole Station. Bad weather at McMurdo some summers has reduced the total number of supply flights the NSF could make to bring in construction supplies and scientific equipment. In addition, the traverse saves an estimated 40 flights and lowers the carbon footprint over the use of aircraft. After a one-year hiatus, a traverse team re-occupied the trail during the 2007–08 season after extensive work and completed the first operational traverse in 2008–09.
The road also facilitated the movement of heavy equipment needed to implement its proposed South Pole Connectivity Program, a planned optical fiber link between the South Pole and the French–Italian Concordia Station located at Dome C at the edge of the Antarctic Plateau; Concordia has 24-hour access to geosynchronous satellites. Such satellites cannot be used at the poles since they are below the horizon; the South Pole now uses a few older, low-bandwidth satellites that dip sufficiently south of the equator to be usable for several hours daily. These satellites are near the end of their life. The road to McMurdo might provide a regularly maintained alternate route for such a link; however, opinions vary as to the shear zone section's suitability for a long-term cable. It's also possible the NSF may choose to deploy several special purpose satellites in polar orbits.
A 7 February 2006 NSF press release stated that 110 tons (100 metric tons) of cargo had been successfully delivered overland to the South Pole Station in a "proof of concept" of the highway.
In February 2013, Maria Leijerstam pedaled a three-wheeled recumbent fatbike the length of the South Pole Traverse, a feat recognized by Guinness World Records as the first person to arrive at the South Pole by bicycle.
|East Antarctica||Antarctic Plateau||0||0||Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station||Southern terminus|
|West Antarctica||Ross Ice Shelf||994||1,600||General McMurdo Road||Access to southern area of station|
|995||1,601||McMurdo Station||Northern terminus|
- Rejcek, Peter (29 February 2008). "Ready to roll". The Antarctic Sun (McMurdo Station, Antarctica). Retrieved 1 May 2009.
- Rejcek, Peter (1 January 2006). "Success! South Pole Traverse arrives Dec. 23" (PDF). The Antarctic Sun (McMurdo Station, Antarctica). pp. 1, 12.
- Keating, Vicki & Melendy, Renee. "Projects: South Pole Station Fuel Resupply". Polar Research and Engineering. United States Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- Deare, Steven (24 December 2002). "South Pole online in 2009". ITworld. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- West, Peter (7 February 2006). "Icy Overland Trip May Add Ground Vehicles to South Pole Supply Missions" (Press release). National Science Foundation. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Wright, Benjamin (27 December 2013). "British Adventurer Maria Leijerstam Achieves World First by Cycling to South Pole". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- "First Person to Bicycle to the South Pole". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Lyne, Jack (13 December 2004). "USA's Science-Driven "Ice Highway" Hitting Rough Sledding in Antarctica". Site Selection.
- Moss, Stephen (24 January 2003). "No, not a ski resort: it's the south pole". The Guardian (London).
- Niiler, Eric (8 February 2011). "Tractor caravan supplies South Pole scientists; robotic replacements considered". Washington Post.
- Pearce, Fred (23 January 2003). "US building highway to the South Pole". New Scientist.
- Staff. "Tractor trains to Pole". Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
- Staff (September 2005). Facility Plan (PDF) (Report). National Science Foundation. p. 53. Contains a brief overview of fiber versus satellite links.
- Staff (6 February 2006). FY 2007 Budget Request to Congress (PDF) (Report). National Science Foundation. pp. 197–203. Contains a discussion of the proposed highway.
- Staff (30 January 2003). "Construction Begins on South Pole Highway". Outside Online. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
- Media related to South Pole Highway at Wikimedia Commons