Saturday, December 09, 2006

Morning in Antarctica

Dec. 5, 2006

After three weeks of great weather, it has taken a turn. Temperatures have dropped to subzero and winds have kicked up, producing a lovely moving carpet of snow about a foot above the ground.

The outer shell of my little green tent is held down by extra wide flaps of fabric called valances that are placed on the ground and covered with blocks of snow. (Note: This is not one of the large multi-colored tents that one finds on the web sites written by our clients, these are the little ones you see on Everest. BTW, these are warmer!) Proper loading of the valances is critical to the survival of the tent in strong winds, which are very common around here. I also built a low curved snow wall upwind of the tent that deflects the snow drifts around the tent. Well, for a time it does. My little green tent is slowly being surrounded by a wall of snow, which must be removed by hand every now and then in a manner intended to avoid ripping the outer shell.

The tent has room inside for a narrow mattress and my duffel bags. On top of the mattress is a light thermarest foam mattress about a half-inch thick. My minus60 sleeping bag made by Feathered Friends of Seattle sits on theThermarest. It is quite toasty and I sleep in the nude in a light fabric liner (cocoon) which fits inside the sleeping bag. A wool hat and eye shades completes the night-time set up. And I sleep with a VHF radio tuned to the base working frequency and an alarm clock set for 7:15am.

It never gets terribly cold in the tent. Last night was about 32F inside the tent. During the warm weeks when we arrived, the tent in daytime was above 60F and rarely below freezing in the evening.

My mornings remind me of a butterfly struggling to get out of a cocoon. It all occurs whilst I am lying on my back. I wiggle out of my sleeping bag, wiggle into my clothes. Grab my radio and dop kit and head for the toilet tent. There we have a throne, comprised of a wood platform with a toilet seat covering an open drum. My advice to myself each morning in availing myself of the facility is the same advice I recall from climbing radio towers: "Don't look down!" Thence to the urinal, which is comprised of a drum whose 2" orifice is connected to a sheet metal funnel-like contraption that was evidently designed for very tall people, or at least people taller than I. Both drums, pee and poo, are flown out of Antarctica on each outgoing flight so as to avoid polluting the pristine Antarctic environment.

If you are wondering about what underlies our tents, ie where the things I drop in the snow and can't find are going, our camp sits on a glacier that is moving northward at about six feet a year. Twenty miles down glacier of us is the Hercules Inlet, a part of the Ronne Ice Shelf. At six feet a year, my lost items will reach the Hercules Inlet in 15,000 years. Beyond the Ronne Ice Shelf is the Weddell Sea, about 600 miles. So in about450,000 years (Jacob check my math, please!) my lost items will calve into the Antarctic Sea and float northwards on an iceberg. So I won't be waiting around for them.

After taking care of business, I brush my teeth and head to the Comms Box (photo to follow) for our morning scheduled contact at 8AM with the home office in Punta Arenas, in which we exchange weather and discuss upcoming flights and the day's schedule. Then off to breakfast, which is toast, eggs and such. At 8:45 we have a staff meeting during which all the department heads discuss their plans for the day, make requests for assistance, and are given direction by the Field Operations Manager (FOM).

By 9:15, we are ready to begin our regular duties, the subject of a future email.

Regards to all my friends and readers, from this very, very beautiful place, which seems to change its attitude and the quality of its light continuously throughout the day.

Adam

5 comments:

ileiderman said...

Adam- It sounds like you are thriving in the polar dessert. We all look forward to hearing your stories when you get home.

Anonymous said...

Adam - This is fascinating! I can not wait for the next article!
Happy Chanukah,

Masha.

Yigal Gafni said...

Adam - your stories are so vivid !!! Just keep yourself warm and safe, we will hear more when you return..
Happy Hanukka - Ruth and Yigal

ileiderman said...

Adam:
Happy Hanukkah!
Hope you are teaching Hanukkah songs to you colleagues :)
Ira & Mindy

ileiderman said...

Adam:
Happy Hanukkah!
Hope you are teaching Hanukkah songs to you colleagues :)
Ira & Mindy