Hi Ice road warriors,
I made some new friends at LDB recently, which is the long distance balloon project where they send up a 6000-8000 lb. payload attached to a helium filled balloon the size of the Houston Astrodome once it reaches it’s maximum altitude and expansion. I drove out with Lisa from the galley to help with lunch preparation, but once we arrived at the LDB base on the ice shelf, we had frozen and then burst pipes to deal with in between peeling, cooking and serving a delicious lunch for the 50 folks who work out there. I got the VIP tour of the facility to ooh and ahh over the logistics of the payload that was a telescope and instruments that could record atmospheric conditions in sub zero temps at 120,000 feet, circle the continent a few times, explosively detach from the balloon and land with a parachute on the ice for recovery.
The afternoon was reserved for playtime, and I drove a Challenger bulldozer pulling a grooming blade for the roads, and finished the day in a Stretch 8 dozer custom built by Caterpillar in 1955 for the newly formed U.S. Antarctic program. It’s one of only 3 left in the world, which are all down here, and is used to pull the heaviest loads around the ice shelf. Driving the Stretch 8 is like a full body shakedown with the noise level approaching a charging locomotive, so I was ready to say adios to my instructor after an hour and a half to allow my bones and hearing to realign. Back in town, I’m now known as one of the Delta instructors, having put a few months of driving the beasts to the happy camper survival program and back without running off the cliffs or sinking into the frozen depths of McMurdo sound. I still get to play with my drills and dental tools back in the office, but it’s a great break to sit behind the wheel of an 80,000 lb diesel machine with a view out the windshield of endless ice vistas.