25 November, 1996
Nov. 25 Ferrell: Remote site 100 km from McMurdo
McMurdo Min temp - 8.1 ° C Max temp - 4.0 ° C 6 knots prevailing wind Ferrell Min temp -9.4 ° C Max temp - 8.3 ° C 18 knots prevailing wind
We get up about 7:30. The wind has ROARED all night. (30 knots which is about 36 miles per hour) Temperature is up to 18F (The wind speed was downloaded to McMurdo from the automatic weather station.) Occasionally the ice crystals that formed under the inner surface of the tent would fall on my face. Now we know that we are supposed to leave a small opening at the top of the tent door and some of the humidity gets out. Usually I slept peacefully. As usual I was toasty warm all night. I had warmed the heavy thermal underwear by placing it in my bag so it wasn't such a shock to put on today. We get up and change into our ECW slowly. It is cold and damp. Breakfast is oatmeal, bagels with peanut butter and jelly, coffee and hot chocolate, bread, granola bars, etc. We eat after checking in with Mac Ops. We have difficulty getting them. We can hear them calling "Sierra 190, Sierra 190, this is Mac Ops, please respond," but they cannot hear us. Finally we decide to change radios. Evidently either the radio or the headset is now bad. Jennifer, Suruj and I had just checked it out last week by taking it out on the ice shelf and using it, but now it doesn't work properly. Thank heavens for backups. We finally check in about 50 minutes late and explain that our radio was bad.
Suruj has had an allergic reaction in the night. I think the most probable problem was the lobster, but since he is from Trinidad and eats shellfish very frequently, we wonder. He also had Tang and dried clam chowder for the first times, so we don't know the cause. He'll avoid them for the rest of the time. It is dangerous to have allergic reactions when you are camping on the Ross ice shelf in the middle of a storm. If something had happened, they could not have sent a helicopter out because the weather was too bad to fly. Outside it is white, white, white. There are no visible land marks such as Mt. Erebus, Mt. Discovery, Black Island, etc. and almost no visible horizon. I walked out a way trying to see if the snow features Jennifer and I had photographed were still there. The visibility is only about 100 - 200 yards. I kept looking back to be sure that I could see the camp, but the group gets concerned and motions for me to return. It really is dangerous to stray too far. The snow features seem to be there so I am encouraged.
If it just stops blowing and the sun comes out, we can continue. I feel much better now and am eager to get going.
Jennifer, Suruj and I go outside and play in the snow. I walk around the camp a number of times to get some exercise and it feels great. I miss my daily walks in Florida. What is odd is that I generally hate cold weather, but love this. Because the humidity is so low you don't seem to feel the cold as much. Also, my ECW gear really keeps me warm. The heavy parka is filled with French duck down (tiny feathers) and is soft and warm now. We decide that it is impossible to get snow ripple pictures because the light is too dim and diffused.
Suruj, Jennifer and I stay out about two hours and really enjoy it. We pull each other on the banana sled like children. I think we were avoiding getting back in the tent and sitting down for hours to come.
Other fun facts. The Ross Ice Shelf is about 200-300 meters thick and is moving toward the open ocean at about 1/2 km / year. That is why they have to use a GPS to find the station from a helicopter because the map coordinates change monthly. Odd.
By now it is REALLY a blizzard. The wind is howling and snow is falling in addition to being blown around. At times it is a "white out" where you can only see white. You cannot see the automatic weather station and can only see up to our "pee" flag at the edge of camp.
Eliminating liquids is a real problem. You can hardly manipulate the numerous zippers when you have on heavy, warm gloves. If you take them off, as I did for a moment, your fingers soon feel like ice and don't want to move. Jennifer lost her glove when she dropped it. It literally blew away. Really scary! This prompts you to drink less liquid which is very dangerous. Since the air is so dry, you lose a lot of water each time you breath. You breath in dry air and breath out air saturated with water vapor. This depletes your system so you really need to keep drinking lots of liquid. If you do any work, you perspire and lose more liquid. There is a delicate balance you must maintain to keep well. If you get dehydrated you risk getting hypothermia. We have a clothes line in the Scott tent to dry a few small things like our gloves or socks. The heat from the Coleman stove rises so it is much warmer at the apex of the tent than on the floor where we sit. We do have foam pads on the floor of the tent and are sitting in canvas covered foam chairs, but it still is uncomfortable. We cannot all stretch out our legs at once. I sat near the door so the cold breeze kept coming in. In addition, the snow we dragged in as we entered gets dropped beside me. When it melts it gets everything wet. Ugh! We keep waiting for the weather to clear and can do nothing except read books. Thank goodness Dr. Braaten recommended bringing paperback books. We each had two. The atmospheric pressure has really dropped so Dr. Braaten tells us that it probably won't clear up today. One day lost for research, but that is what happens when you do field research sometimes. I hope we don't have a second day like this one!
Jennifer and I are so cold we decide to go to our sleep tent and crawl into our sleeping bags and nap or read for a couple of hours. Our tent was really drifted in already. The weight of the snow on the Sierra tents might be some help to hold them down, but it really seems odd. They almost look like igloos by now.
We eat dinner about 8:30 PM. Suruj cooks Trinidad chicken with rice and mixed vegetables. The meal was delicious and we finish with a can of sliced preaches. We sat and talked after washing dishes and read books. I want to wait to the last minute before leaving and going to my tent. It is so cold and windy outside. I hope for better weather tomorrow. Dr. Braaten has been here 3 times before and has never heard of it being this bad more than one day so I go to sleep encouraged. I remember how quiet it was the first night and now it is noisy. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
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