A typical convoy consists of 2 graders and 6 to 8 tractors which pull the loads: containers and fluid tanks, spread along 20 or so sleds. There are about 9 to 10 personnel including a doctor. 2 caravans specially designed for comfort and safety are included for these treks as they take 20-25 days for each return journey.
- The Living quarter module consists of couchettes, infirmary, local radio, kitchen and dining room.
- The Energy module houses the generator, workshop, water production unit and sanitary facilities. The generator supplies the caravans and keeps up the tractor engine temperature during halts.
- The Store module holds the supplies and spare parts.
The convoy’s telecommunication links are ensured by an Iridium station (e-mail and telephone access), Inmarsat-C and -M terminals and a standard HF radio transmitter. Three convoys of this type haul 400-500 T of materials and supplies for each summer campaign. On the return journey they take away Concordia’s wastes. Yet finding the right route back between two convoy passages or two austral summers is not easy. The only physical clues are a slight bank formed by the grader blades. Vehicles, especially the unit at the head of the convoy, are equipped with electronic GPS navigation systems. The leading vehicle is doted with powerful spotlights which help see the ground even when visibility is low (during whiteout). Good load distribution is vital for the convoy to run properly. It needs to be adapted to the types of sled used and the “road” conditions for careful carriage of the goods and equipment, to optimize fuel consumption and reduce journey time.