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19 October, 2003

The strongest gust last night was 57mph. The maximum wind chill was -48F. That about says it all, as that pattern continued throughout today. What do you do when it's just too bad to go out? Well, we've each had endless mugs of tea and cocoa, searched the pantry for interesting edibles, set-up our stovetop oven to make pizza, and read books. At one point it almost seemed to be clearing, but luckily we didn't jump to our feet and layer up for a trip to the South Base seal colony since the next bit of this storm moved right in.

Watching the low-lying ground blizzard swirling to the east and west of us gave me great incentive to learn to use a GPS (global positioning system) when Darren offered me a brief lesson. A GPS works much better than a compass down here, since the magnetic South Pole spends most of its time wandering aimlessly-it shifts position approximately every 5 years. In addition, the declination you must use to compensate for the difference between magnetic and true south is so great that it makes using your compass an exercise in futility. When would a handheld GPS come in handy? How about if you're caught in a whiteout and would like to get back to camp? We have programmed the GPS with the coordinates (latitude and longitude) for our camp. In theory, you could use the GPS to determine your current location and then, moving along on your snowmobile, you could determine the direction you must take to get back to camp. In a worst-case scenario, you could use the GPS to find out your exact location and radio this information to Mac Opps for help.

Days like this are just part of the program for life in Antarctica and field research, in general. You can't fight the weather-in fact, it would be an incredible show of hubris on our part to even think we could ignore or control all aspects of our environment. So, for now, it's a great day to catch up on reading and rest up for the seal tagging to come.

Daily Haiku:

Wind gusts rock the hut

Swirling snow obscures the sky

Have some more cocoa

Impervious to the elements

Too windy to work

Blowing snow obscures our view of Mt. Erebus and keeps us from venturing out across the ice

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