So imagine yourself cruising along in your plush Pisten Bully over the beautiful, aqua-blue sea ice enjoying the spectacular scenery of Granite Harbor on a lovely spring day. All of a sudden, you realize something is really wrong with your vehicle. There’s no power. The engine sputters and then goes silent. What do you do? Back home you might get out your cell phone and call a good friend or family member that knows about cars, or a favorite mechanic, or if you’ve paid for the service- call AAA to come and check out the problem. But what do you do if you’re in the middle of Antarctica?
Unfortunately, we’ve had this problem come up here at camp. Antarctica’s harsh environment is tough even on vehicles that were meant to work in very cold, snowy conditions. One of the Pisten Bullys seems to have an ongoing mechanical problem. It could be battery problems, faulty wiring, or even computer malfunctions. Our field party includes a couple of very handy guys, Andrew and Kyle, that seem to me like the kind of guys that could fix most anything, but not being that familiar with Pisten Bullys they had to call in some help. Instead of a cell phone, the camp manager got on the walkie talkie to MAC Ops- the signal bounced from the transmitter on top of nearby Mt. Brooke and picked up in McMurdo Station 100 miles south. MAC Ops transferred the call to the mechanics shop and in hardly any time, Josh Knopik and Branden Thorpe were on their way out to our camp by helicopter.
This was actually Josh and Branden’s second visit to our camp and we’re all old friends now. Josh is here from Minnesota for his second season, but probably won’t be back next year because he’s hoping to be in graduate school. His background is in environmental studies with interest in ecology and geology. This is Branden’s first year here. He’s from Silver Spring, Maryland and is a diesel mechanic back home. They’re great guys and seem to work well together. They even fixed the camp generator that had just conked out. The weather took a nasty turn back in McMurdo and the helicopters were grounded so Josh and Branden stayed overnight and enjoyed Joan’s great cooking.
So far the Pisten Bully is running fine. After looking through the manufacturer’s brochures that the guys had with them, I’m wondering if these vehicles are designed for lighter use than what our group is putting them through.