Life in a blizzard
It was a cold night with the wind chill reaching -18.4 degrees Celsius. By 5.00 a.m. I’d had enough of being cold and weather beaten by the Katabatic wind smashing the side of my tent and bouncing off my head so I decided to make my way to our base, the Sorensen Hut, for a warm cup of tea and read a couple of pages of my book.
I should have known we were in for bad weather as my neighbours the Adelie penguin colony were no where to be seen or heard this morning.
Before I could walk the five minutes to the hut I had to get dressed for the journey.
The thought flashed across my mind to make a dash across the rocks in my pyjamas, but being dressed inappropriately could be life threatening in Antarctica.
Dressing for polar conditions takes a considerable amount of time as there are so many layers to put on before stepping outside your tent.
New Zealand Merino thermal underwear is considered the base lining as it serves as a neck-to-knee protection. After that comes either fleece top and pants or industrial duty shirt and pants.
A final lining of padded overalls, woollen knee length socks, a pair of polar lined boots, a Canada goose down coat, sun glasses, a pair of gloves, a balaclava and a woollen hat and a splash of sunscreen to protect against the harmful UV rays.
The chance of meeting the man of your dreams in East Antarctica is pretty slim, and just as well, wearing 50 layers of padding for ballast, sporting bed head and the need for a shower.
But thankfully everyone looks the same. There’s no room for the fashion conscious at Cape Denison!!!
Later in the morning as the team began making their way across to Mawson’s Huts it started to snow gently. Within a very short time radio contact began to be exchanged about a blizzard coming in.
Out of our team of 10, four of us were at the base hut and three made it back to base while visibility was still reasonably clear.
The other three members made radio contact to say they were safe inside Mawson’s Hut and would continue their work as planned.
Shortly afterwards visibility was down to a couple of metres, the snow quickly blocked out our windows and mounted up around the door, while high seas battered the coastline.
We remained in constant contact with our team members over at Mawson’s Hut knowing they were in no real danger as they had survival packs, plenty of warm drinks and food.
When a blizzard hits there is nothing to do except stay in doors until it passes, so we passed the day staying warm and drinking lots of tea and eating a hearty vegetable soup and other yummy foods like Thai fish cakes and watching DVDs.
After a couple of hours visibility cleared a little but it took eight hours before our stranded three members walked in the door, safe and sound, to the sound of cheering and clapping.
It’s bed time now and thanks to a blizzard line to guide me and a radio for contact, I will make my way to my tent to hopefully get a better nights sleep in what Sir Douglas Mawson termed “The Home of the Blizzard”.