Sunday, January 21, 2007
Last week we were smacked with the first Antarctic storm of the season. For all intents and purposes, the camp was shut down for four days. Even the young hotshot pilots - who are here to rack up flying hours in Twin Otters in hopes of a job with an airline some day and will it seems do anything to get into the air - wouldn't consider going out of the dining tent.
So for four days, it was indoor activities only around camp. Clean up paperwork, repair some of the machinery, cook dinner, catch up on some missing sleep, and yes, drink some Chilean wine, play card games and engage in lengthy conversation. Happily for me, one of our guests was a nuclear physicist from San Diego who has spent the last thirty years on fusion research and is an active ham radio operator. We had plenty to talk about and radio equipment to play with. No need to suffer in Antarctica, at least here at Patriot Hills.
The storm was comprised of a heavy snowfall, followed by sixty knot winds. After a day or so, the snow formed into corn (hard round snow crystals) which felt like small buckshot against any exposed skin. At night one slept amidst this wonderful racket, the tent being machine- gunned by the corn snow while at the same time shaking like an old airplane straining to take off on a runway with potholes. That is about the only way I can describe the experience, except to say that throughout the night, I was certain that I was soon to go the way of Dorothy and Toto.
One morning during the storm, our high frequency wire antenna snapped in the wind, and I went to the downwind end of the camp to inspect the damage. This necessitated a two-minute upwind return leg back to the Comms box in the lethal sixty knot breeze. One of my friends caught me in his camera as I stepped in the door. The expression on my face, in case you are wondering, is awe.
See you later.