Skip to comments.US building highway to the South Pole
Posted on 01/24/2003 7:54:55 AM PST by vannrox
The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service
The road is expected to reach the US Scott-Amundsen base at the pole within two years, according to Bill Spindler, a scientist at the base and editor of South Pole News.
An initial purpose for the highway will be to help lay a $250-million fibre-optic cable to the Scott-Amundsen base. The cable, which should be completed within five years, will revolutionise communications at the Pole.
The Scott-Amundsen base is home to a growing amount of scientific equipment. But it is out of sight of most geostationary communications satellites, so it cannot reliably send back real-time data to the laboratories in the US that use the equipment. The cable would solve that problem.
Bulldozers and crevasses
Construction of the ice road involves clearing the route of snow, bulldozing rough ice and filling in crevasses. The route will cross the Leverett glacier in the Transantarctic Mountains.
Once completed the road is likely to become a permanent fixture. The Scott-Amundsen base is only currently accessible by air, which places limits on cargo and relies on good weather. The road could be open to heavy traffic for up to 100 days a year during the austral summer.
Scientists say the road will allow overland transport of the increasingly heavy loads of scientific equipment being taken to the pole, such as that for the planned Ice Cube project.
Ice Cube is an astronomical observatory to be built at the pole to study cosmic neutrino beams. Its detectors will be spread through a cubic kilometre of clear ice beneath the base. Ice Cube is expected to generate 20 gigabytes of data a day when it is completed in about five years' time.
The road will need to be cleared of snow and checked for crevasses and ice movement each spring, says Karl Erb of the National Science Foundation in Virginia, which is funding the $12-million project. "But crevices don't change much from year to year," he says. "We will just have to monitor them."
Spindler says it will take about 20 days to reach the pole, which is at an altitude of more than 3000 metres. The downhill return journey will take about 10 days. The traffic will consist of slow-moving convoys of caterpillar tractors, towing sleds carrying fuel and bulky equipment. Independent travel will not be allowed.
The polar base plans three return journeys each summer, says Spindler. The annual capacity of the route would be about a million litres of fuel - roughly the capacity of three Hercules transporter planes that currently supply the base.
Environmentalists appear relaxed about the scheme. The ice cap is a barren wilderness devoid of life. And the road is unlikely to pave the way to exploitation of Antarctic natural resources, as this is banned under the Antarctic Treaty until 2041.
Forget defending our nation. Forget paying off our debt. Forget returning money to the people who earned it. We're going to build a road from nowhere to nowhere.
Yes. Me too. But it does make scientific sense to have that sort of access and communications to the south pole. Good post. Thanks.
With no commercial incentive to explore the Antarctic wilderness, government is properly used to do this, as it was to begin space travel.
It sure beats pissing away the money on some welfare scheme.
I seem to recollect Raytheon / DARPA doing lots of <spookyvoice> mysterious </spookyvoice> research and construction down there. Scientists going wacky and having to be air lifted out. Tin-foil stuff.
Do you base that on the Constitution, or just personal preference?
If you or I were Presdent, yeah. However, just look at the international space station. We paid for almost all of it, but we are going to let everyone else use it.
I predict that we will let everyone else use our road as well.
Nobody reads the Constitution anymore. It's dead, donchaknow?
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