Halley Bay - 1972
The Recovery of IH Tractor "Paul"
Photographs by Gordon Ramage
The International Harvester tractor "Paul" had fallen into a crevasse in the hinge zone in 1969, while part of a tractor-based field trip to the mountains. All efforts to recover it at the time had been in vain and it was abandoned. (See comment by David Groom and pictures by Ian Smith.)
In the summer of 1971-72 Bruce Blackwell had passed the site during a trip and seen just part of the cargo sledge, which the tractor had been towing, protruding from the crevasse; it was assumed that the tractor would be there for ever, but Bruce thought otherwise. He reconnoitred the site and carefully researched the written account and photos of the vehicle's descent into the crevasse. Over the winter he made meticulous plans and assembled all the necessary equipment. It was too dangerous to take another big tractor to the site, so Paul would have to be winched out by hand.
When all was ready Bruce convinced the BC to sanction the trip, and he, Ian Bury, Dave Fletcher and Gordon Ramage set out on the recovery trip in October 1972. A lot of preliminary digging, fixing of anchors, etc., was needed before the winching could begin. Then ever so slowly the several-ton tractor was eased from its resting place. It was clearly reluctant to be disturbed, since at one point it fell back down the hole, coming to rest further down than it started. But Bruce was undeterred, and eventually the tractor was safely back on the surface. Apart from needing a new battery, it was in perfect working order.
It was driven triumphantly back to base, using long strings to work the control the levers over crevassed ground.
Paul saw a more few years service but clearly did not want to leave Antarctica. He was lost through the sea ice while being driven to the ship for return to the UK (1977/78 season). The driver, Pete Witty, had a narrow escape.