Monday, 5 December 2011

Condition 1

It was pretty windy last night, and indeed when I stuck my head out of the tent this morning I could only vaguely make out the outhouse 30m away. Interesting. The night was nice an warm in my layers of sleeping bag and fleece liner - even dressing in the morning wasn't cold, and my water hadn't frozen. I'd made very sure that my tent zip was completely closed before I went to bed, because even a tiny hole will let in a lot of spindrift!

I stepped out into my porch - over-deepened* into the snow so I can stand up - turned around, and closed the inner tent before opening the fly and letting in the outside world. Outhouse still visible, so I started shuffling over. If you lose sight of where you're heading you should stop and wait for the visibility clear. Luckily this didn't happen, and the start of the line of bigger tents came into view as I reached the outhouse, so I handrailed along to the galley. This was a fairly tricky process because metre-high drifts caught you unaware in the flat light...

At the morning meeting, we were told it was condition 1 (can't see beyond the next tent 10m away), and camp staff should stand down from outside duties. There followed a group sretching session, several card games and a large jigsaw group sprung up. The hard-working Polenet team is continuing the optimistic task of determining the logistics of visiting all our sites. Here's what we're up against:

We have a Twin otter (small plane, limited flying distance, slower, lower cargo limit, can refuel at any fuel cache) and a Basler (larger, flies further, faster, higher cargo limit, can only refuel at the Pine Island Glacier camp).
Problem 1: neither plane has made it to Byrd yet.
Problem 2: The PIG camp is not installed yet, so we can't get to the far sites, which require a large cargo and hence the Basler (plus refuelling).
Problem 3: We don't have some of the cargo needed for the site visits.
Problem 4: We need to factor in stocking the fuel caches.
Problem 5: given current plane/fuel/cargo limitations once we add up the weight of the required cargo we are already over the flying weight limit...that's before counting any people.

So things are a little frustrating, heading outside is a major expedition, but it's actually very sunny here (above the 5m-high level of swirling spindrift which makes you feel like you're walking on running water), and the company is good fun - if you make it to these field camps you tend to be a pretty jolly/quirky/interesting person! And it's 100 times better than McMurdo.

*apparently last year someone dug 3m down from inside their tent porch to create an underground bar, capable of holding 8 people!

1 comment:

  1. I was in the Lake District today, pretty similar to Antarctica in a way. I fell over a meter high snow drift in the flat light, so almost identical to where you are!