Innovations in Over-Snow Cargo Transport to South Pole

James Lever, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spanos Auditorium

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This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

Until recently, all cargo deliveries to re-supply the National Science Foundation's research station at South Pole were made using ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft. This has placed significant cost and logistic burdens on the US Antarctic Program (USAP) and has limited the number of LC-130 flights available to support science camps across the continent. For the past several years, CRREL has helped USAP develop the equipment and a safe route to haul heavy cargo over-snow from McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica to South Pole, a distance of about 1,000 miles. The traverse has proven successful and is now poised to become a route annual operation. The large cost, fuel and emissions reductions possible by traverse compared with aircraft re-supply have led NSF to initiate a similar heavy-cargo traverse from Thule to the science station at Summit, Greenland. A key innovation has been the development of fuel bladder sleds that offer lower cost and higher delivery efficiency compared with steel tank sleds. This talk will discuss the main obstacles to implementing South Pole and Greenland heavy-cargo traverses, the efficiency improvements made during the period of CRREL's involvement and the vehicle fleets now being developed for routine cargo deliveries. A major theme is the large payoff possible for R&D investments to improve operations in harsh polar environments.

About the Speaker

Dr. James Lever is a mechanical engineer with 26 years experience in cold-region engineering. His work has included assessing the risk of iceberg impacts on offshore structures, mitigating ice-jam flooding on small rivers and developing equipment to collect micrometeorites from the bottom of the drinking water well at South Pole. He has recently focused on designing lightweight robots and heavy cargo sleds for good over-snow mobility. Dr. Lever has been an adjunct associate professor at Thayer since 2004 and has partnered with Prof. Laura Ray and her students to develop robots to support polar research.

CRREL - The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, NH, is an arm of the US Army Corps of Engineers. It is the only DoD laboratory that addresses the problems and opportunities unique to the world's cold regions. CRREL's mission is to gain knowledge of cold regions through scientific and engineering research and put that knowledge to work for the Corps of Engineers, the Army, the Department of Defense, and the Nation.