Friday, December 17, 2010

True Colours (Condition One)

Sitting down to dinner at Cape Evans the weather started to turn on its head. Earlier in the day I had made a painstaking two hour journey across from Evans to Royds on the quad bike. J.T and Al were in the haggling tugging six cuba’s (big plastic bins with about 4cubic meters capacity) carrying artefacts that will return to Scott Base for conserving in the winter months, but this meant a maximum speed of 10km/h. All togged up in my cold weather gear it was a cold, slow trip into the prevailing winds. The purpose of our journey was to shift a ‘vortex generator’ (triangular steel objected used to scatter snow drift) to reduce the snow build up around Scott’s hut as well as move some gear before the sea-ice goes out for summer.
The weather cleared enough for us to move the vortex to its new position and head home to Royds. During the trip I met Antarctica New Zealand CEO Lou Sanson who was having a day trip out to visit the hut and field parties in the area, a really nice guy!

(snowy hut)

Unfortunately on arrival back at camp I was met with a tent full of snow. The Scott tents we use have ventilation pipes near the roof to make it safe to use a primus from inside. However with the weather being fine when I left camp for the night I neglected to tie them off resulting in a good amount of drift blowing in and covering my bags and clothes. Luckily a gut feeling had me zip up my bags before I left; meaning the majority of snow was kept away from my possessions! At least my outer tent didn’t rip open as was the case for Al and now the toilet tent.

It is now two days later and we have just finished work early for the day (3pm) as the wind blows around 30knots with a wind chill below -20C. We worked all of yesterday digging around the hut with constant snow and wind holding visibility to about 70m. This made for slow progress. There is however a very satisfying feeling though finishing work for the day and heading back to the warm wannigan for a nice cooked meal.

(in the trenches)

This morning I woke up after a blustery night’s sleep and kitted out for another day in the trenches. We were on landscaping duty in an attempt to slightly alter the gradient of the land to direct any melt water away from Shackleton’s hut. As the day progressed the weather moved to category one (visibility less than 30m due to heavy winds and snow drift). We continued to work for as long as possible out in the snow but eventually succumb to shelter not wanting to lose our way back to the campsite. The cold was not an issue with a number of wind proof layers on coupled with a lot of physical activity.

(working in the snow)

In a way it is great to experience the harsher side of Antarctica as it bears its teeth. Even just standing outside I can see our tents and flag markers disappear in and out of sight. The past two days work is certainly an episode I will not forget any time soon. With the Condition One weather forecasted to remain for at least the next day and a half we will have to wait it out and see.

(Al’s frozen moustache)

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