Current location: Byrd Surface Camp, West Antarctica (80º South)
Current weather: Winds at 16 knots. -25º C
The wind that greeted us at Byrd Surface Camp on Monday afternoon was a true Antarctic welcome to our deep field camp! Ferocious and unrelenting, we stashed our gear in the tents and enjoyed a warm meal prepared by our favorite chefs- Robert, Thomas, and Patrick, who manage to do brilliantly tasty things with frozen, canned, and powdered food, with a smattering of freshies that come in sporadically.
Eric Kendrick and Guy Tytgat managed to reach Lonewolf Nunataks- about 475km from McMurdo earlier this week. Once at the GPS site, Eric discovered a broken frame, but all equipment was still operating. He was able to rig some temporary repairs that will keep the station going until they can return to complete more permanent repairs. Guy upgraded the seismic station box to one with more insulation to keep the temperature above -50º and replaced a small GPS antenna, so all in all, it was a long, but successful day.
Now that most of the crew is gathered at Byrd, we’re busy testing equipment, making flight plans, organizing work flow and logistics, and waiting for our Twin Otter and Basler aircraft to arrive in camp. For the past few days, weather has been bad between here and McMurdo, so we continue to wait for that perfect weather window.
We have arrived at camp about a month earlier than last season, which means it’s a lot COLDER than we remember! We’re at the tail-end of Spring, with warmer temperatures on their way in a few short weeks. The put-in crew arrived about three weeks ago, and with heroic efforts, managed to dig out all of the tents and gear that had been stored on high berms from last season. They have epic tales of surviving condition one storms to retrieve their sleep kits-- a few hundred meters can become almost insurmountable when you can’t see your hand in front of your face and the winds are strong enough to blow you off course!
Camping in Antarctica certainly has its drawbacks. Sleeping in a bright yellow tent with 24-hour sunlight can be a challenge. Waking up in the morning and having to climb out of your cozy sleeping bag can be a psychological feat of some magnitude. But, it has its good points as well! Just think: No cell phones, no traffic noise, no spiders, no flies, no bears! No animals at all, really. Although a few lost Snow Petrels (small white sea birds) managed to wander past camp-- we all ran outside and watched in amazement.
The other plus about camping in Antarctica is that you’re surrounded by people whose adventurous streak is seasoned with enthusiasm, hard work, and a willingness to take things as they come, go with the flow, and have fun with life. It’s a great place to get this project moving!