Luxury caboose travel

Ice thickness radar expedition across the Brunt Ice Shelf from Halley Bay, 1963


Doug Finlayson, geophysicist; 1962-1963

Regarding a report from 1968 base history, I should draw attention to the fact that Golly's Folly was not the first experiment in luxury caboose travel out of Halley Bay engineered by "Dad" Etchells. In 1963 I had the dubious pleasure of sharing a bunk room on base with Dad's fuel oil soaked windproofs. He and I together with Dave Petrie and Mike Walford put together a tractor with luxury caboose in tow for the purpose of measuring ice radar thickness across the Brunt Ice Shelf (see the photographs below). Dad did not come with us on the expedition but Mike, Dave and myself had an exciting two weeks finding our way around the various "interesting" features of the Brunt Ice Shelf, long before the availability of the metre-scale accuracy of GPS navigation.

Mike, from the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, was one of the first to successfully measure ice thickness anywhere in Antarctica. This was a forerunner for eventual airborne radar ice thickness measurements. The 1963 work was reported in the prestigious scientific journal Nature the following year (24 Oct 1964, Vol.204, No. 4956, pp317-319). October 1964. At that time the ice shelf at Halley Bay station was moving seaward at 441 metres per year as measured by magnetic anomaly surveys around the base. The 1963 traverses covered about 320 km across the ice shelf and measured ice thicknesses varying from 200 metres down to 90 metres in some of the disturbed ice areas.

The radar equipment was mounted on the Muskeg tractor together with its various transmission and receiver aerial frames. The first towed sledge was used for fuel drums and the caboose was mounted on the second sledge. The caboose was a bit cramped at times but served us well. There was certainly no central heating like Golly's Folly. However, for the 1968 trip to the Shackleton Range perhaps something more "up-market" was warranted.

The Ice Radar Expedition - 1963
Photo by Doug Finlayson
Ice thickness radar expedition, December 1963

The Ice Radar Expedition - 1963
Photo by Doug Finlayson
Home-sweet-home in the caboose: left to right - Doug Finlayson, David Petrie and Mike Walford

The Ice Radar Expedition - 1963
Photo by Doug Finlayson
Mike Walford doing running repairs on the ice radar equipment

[9 June 2005, updated 11 April 2009]
See also
comment by Tony Baker.

1963 index page
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