Antarctic Diary: November 26, 2002


Last night -18C. Slept in the expedition sleeping bag with a fleece liner. Wore socks, two pair of long underwear, a fleece vest, and a fleece hat. Snug as a bug.

When I woke up there was frost condensed on the inside walls of the tent. The tent is not doing so hot minus one inner spar. Guess I'll have to risk having it fall in on me.

Antarctic survival.

I could write an entire wu on "what it's like to wake up on the ground in Antarctica", because now that I'm back in the dry valleys, it all comes back to me. To imagine I could be stuck in traffic on 101 or 280 in the SF bay area heading to work, and instead, I'm waking up on the volcanic earth of the seventh continent, in the shadow of an 80' high glacier that creaks and moans all night--it's like being in a novel.

Maybe I'm nutz. But it feels like life to me. Like nothing else matters but breathing and seeing and being. Like things that matter, don't. Nothing to worry about but keeping myself healthy till I can get myself home.

In the silence, the sound of your own heart is interrupted only by the occasional rush of katabatic wind coming in off the pole.

The sun was absolutely brilliant this morning. Two pair of long underwear. Fleece vest. Fleece coat. Hat. Slathered myself with sunscreen. There's no ozone in the sky here, so between windburn and UV one is fried immediately. Sunglasses are manditory all the time. Only wore my fleece gloves. The wind was absolutely biting, and the chill was down to -30, so the gloves did almost no good. Trudged through snow and dirt to get to the u-barrel, then into the hut for breakfast. Bagels and cream cheese.

The hut was packed with scientists getting ready for their day in the field. Two glaciologists were heading up to the Taylor Glacier. Four limnologists were heading out, two to Lake Fryxell and two out the front door to Lake Hoare. The diver was heading out but as the compressor was down, she was just going to make sure the gear was intact.

The wave of helos started at 8AM. They dropped off a mechanic to fix the broken compressor (and while he was here he worked on a couple of the SkiDoos). The two glaciologists hopped that helo and headed east to the glacier. Within 5 minutes a second helo dropped in picking up the limnologists and taking them east. Two more helos came in, one to drop off some cargo and another to pick up the assistant camp manager who suddenly needed to go to Lake Bonney to get things checked out there.

While we were monitoring the comings and goings of the helos I talked to one of the scientists who admitted it was a pretty interesting situation to go to work and come "home" every day by helicopter.

As I sit here now, we're awaiting the wave of helos returning everyone to camp.

Got the cams integrated to the net. Hiked around the glacier.

It's damn cold this year. Last year this time we were hanging around on the sand in our shorts and t-shirts. Today we're layering.

The joke in the hut is it's damn cold.

As if anything else would be rational.

10:20PM, Antarctic time.

Just found out I'm going to be spending 5 days alone with my boss at Lake Bonney. That's a more remote camp, about 15 miles up the valley from where I am now at Lake Hoare.

The thought of isolation is interesting, as I'm sure we'll migrate to opposite ends of the camp. Lots of time to think and write. The network will be up (I hope) and I'll be able to put up some nodes. A bunch of hikes.

But it's already getting strange to be here. Perpetual daylight puts one in a different frame of mind. Not Insomnia-grade craziness, but something more subtle. When I sit to write, I can't. I want to . I have the time. But I stare at the keyboard unable to get to work.

Outside is my tent. It's -11C, about +8F now. Positively balmy compared to last night. But my tent is about 1/4 a mile from the hut, so I have to hike for about 5 minutes to get there. Uphill. I'll take a picture of it--my decrepit tent with the missing spar. Today it looked like it was going to blow down in a mild breeze.

I'm noticing smells this year. Last year I couldn't smell people. This year I can. No showers for 10 days. Man, I'm gonna reek.

Thanksgiving's a holiday here. Nobody works. So tomorrow night is the beginning of Party time, if there is any.

OK. I'm heading to my tent. Boots on. Don the red parka.

I'm off.