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150117 caravan 1
Pléiades–CNES 2016, Distribution Airbus DS

How do you deliver supplies to one of the remotest research stations on Earth? Put the equipment and food on skis and pull them by tractor across the ice and snow in a long caravan.

This image was taken by France’s Pleiades satellite orbiting 700 kilometres above. The convoy of supplies can be seen on the 1,000-kilometre trek from Dumont d’Urville on the Antarctic coast to Concordia research station.

The traverse across Antarctica takes 10 days, climbing more than 3,000 metres to reach Concordia’s plateau. Pulled by heavy-duty tractors, the caravans carry up to 300 tonnes of fuel, food and heavy equipment in 300-metre-long convoys organised by France’s IPEV polar institute.

Once at Concordia, three days are spent unpacking and preparing for the return trip. The trip back to the coast generally takes two days less because it is downhill most of the way.

Concordia sits on a plateau 3,200 metres above sea level. A place of extremes, temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, and the sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter, forcing the crew to live in isolation without sunlight for four months of the year.

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