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15 December, 2002

Snow Day

Date: 12/15/02

Latitude: 83 degrees 30' 02.81" South

Longitude: 104 degrees 59' 12.73" West

Time of Observations: 11:00 PM local time

Temperature: -30 C / -22 F

Wind speed: 35 knots

Wind Chill: -51 C / -60 F

Wind direction: Northeast

Meters of ice collected: 203m

By Dan Dixon

Today the weather went from bad to worse. The incessant winds were blowing so much surface snow that it was difficult to see more than 20 feet. It was nearly a complete whiteout. Paul, our field leader, called off work for the day so we all spent our free time doing odd jobs, reading, chatting, sleeping, and many other things that are not possible while working.

I spent the morning making short movies of the storm with my digital camera. I cut out a hole in a plastic bag and stuck the camera lens out through it; this reduces the amount of snow getting in to the camera body. Even with the plastic bag cover, the camera became covered in snow after about 15 minutes and I had to put it back inside to dry off. The snow parcticles are so fine, and the winds are so strong, that snow eventually finds its way into every nook and cranny imaginable.

After my 15 minutes of movie making, I went to the kitchen for some breakfast. Even this turned out to be a challenge as several large snowdrifts had established themselves between the blue room and the kitchen overnight. After a lovely breakfast I headed out to the clean air sector to get a fresh surface snow sample. The clean air sector is situated about 250m upwind of the camp, this ensures that none of the exhaust from the tractors or generators can possibly contaminate the air or snow in that area. The atmospheric air sampling tent, the drill site, and the surface snow collection area are all situated in the clean air sector. The path to the clean air sector is marked every 20-25 feet with flags; today the conditions were so bad that you could only see one flag-distance ahead. The walk out was like an adventure into nothingness, just pure white with a single flag to guide you.

After collecting the surface snow sample and helping Betsy shovel snow around the edges of the atmospheric sampling tent (to help keep the wind out), I returned to the shelter of the blue room. I attempted to take off my outer layers of clothing only to find that everything was iced up, my gloves, neck gaiter, goggles, and hat were frozen solid. I even had to thaw out the zipper of my jacket before I could get it undone; I had only been outside for about half an hour! After thawing out and warming up for a while in the blue room, I decided to head back out and make some more movies. It took another 15 minutes for my digital camera to get snow covered again, but I managed to get some good storm footage including the primal-sounding howl of the blue room wind generator. When I returned to the blue room to warm up again I found that all my clothes had frozen rock hard like a suit of armor! During my early morning foray into the snow my clothes had gotten quite wet and had not had a chance to dry out thoroughly, so as I went back out into the freezing winds a second time my clothes had frozen around me like a hard shell. After this little experience I decided to take my time and dry out completely, I spent the rest of the day in the warmth of the blue room and kitchen. Before bedtime we watched another DVD movie in the blue room, this time it was Eddie Murphy in "Delirious".

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