Preparation for a White Christmas

The summer solstice was yesterday and that marks the halfway point of Antarctica's summer science operations. Early this week we completed all the scheduled logging projects in the 3300 m borehole. That was part 1. The second phase of ice research at WAIS is to dig deeper. Soon scientists will know exactly how much ice lies between the bottom of the borehole and the top of the underground surface. Pinging the rock bottom below the ice is not so easy because the bedrock has been eroded to a fine size. This makes it's hard for a sonar (aka fancy fish finder) to differentiate between fine rock and fine ice. The sand and ice at the ~3500 m bottom are roughly the same shape and size. I think that if there is any life down there it would be microscopic if living, otherwise frozen and fossilized.

Ontop the ice human life is peachy. The food is good, scientists successful, knarley weather and machines are breaking. When the generator goes out, whether by mechanical error or because dynamite is being blown for the purpose sonic ice science, I resort to nothing but propane fire and melted ice because there is no electricity. This rarely happens, but when it does I enjoy every minute of the quiet early mornin cookin session. Make do with what ya got.

Here's PB (Piston Bully) getting it's internals examined.

Inside the MECH shop where...

the mechanics fix anything.

I see every person at camp at least twice every day in the galley. By observing and listening during meal times I get the big picture of what's going on at camp. There is no privacy in the galley. If a researcher wants to discuss how the anti-freeze liquid convection currents within the borehole is causing error with ice temp. logging by depth then he/she will do so and those eating with ears open nearby will be enligthened. Likewise, when the three cooks start talking about their most embarassing times in high school during lunch, all are free to listen. Who needs TV when you have you?

While taking a leak outside in 10 knots and clouding skies I noticed some peculiar uniformly stacked white boxes with bright tags on them. They are ice core boxes. Soon to be filled and shipped by freezer plane and truck to Denver. Next to arrive at WAIS from McMurdo (and probably Denver) are the core handlers.

The ARCH drill was installed today and tomorrow the drillers should get their first ice core for the 2011-2012 season. There won't be much drilling this time around. The drillers are looking to get a couple hundred meters deeper.

On the weather channel, Kat says a big storm is coming. YES! This year has been so stormy that one of the weather gals is nicknamed 'Storm'.

The blue outlines around the green blobs indicate stormy times.

Wind picks up. Heaters roaring to keep our machines and bodies warm and in action.

At 2 AM I began work. The windows are frosting, handsoap frozen, and the galley tent is starting to shake with snow blowing in through all cracks. Folks usually don't stream in until 6 AM, so I have hours to myself to watch the storm rise and the weather board reads that it should be getting bad around 5 AM.

I throw down; my breakfast/baking table is set and I have a large list of XMAS goods to produce in 5 days.

The day before, Sunday brunch at 7 AM was this...

and on Monday I planned a steaming hot wake-up-in-yo-tent-snowed-in blizzard breakfast.

Pizza quiche.

Russ made it in after a bit of shoveling and started flippin pizzas.

Fish was fryin.

Steaming beets getting sliced. Lunch is always a party.

While he was doin his thang I was tweakin with the bread mixer getting gingerbread together for gingerbread 'house' making. Where did this gingerbread house building custom come from? Hansel and Gretel? I was going to say that it's odd to create a house and then eat it, but then again kids eat gummy worms and gummy cars and gummy monsters and bubble gum measuring tapes, so nevermind. I don't think many people eat their gingerbread houses, but an odd tradition especially since derived from the German Grimm Brothers fairy tales.

The kitchen asked the camp what they would like for the holiday dinner. Don the Science Don asked for pumpkin pie. No problem man, my favourite.

I lost track of the progession of time of when these were baked, but it all, including the pics above, went down on Monday and Tuesday. Toasted hazelnut and apple crisp pie.

Upside down cranberry cake. Since we're near the south pole, might as well as call it downside up cranberry cake.


A typical Christmas morning dried fruit and nut bread. Kuglof or something like that. Needs to be iced and sugared.

Homemade hambuger buns for today's (Thursday) hamburgers.

Smore cake. Completely made this one up,

because I found cases and cases of chocolate :)

The bakery central.

Like anywhere else on Earth we need fresh water, especially for the kitchen. All day and night, night and day, people stroll to the back of the kitchen to shovel a bucket of snow and dump it into the melter. Today I helped dump in 22 buckets. On Tuesday the blizzard was peaking and the kitchen turned into a steam room with all the melting going on. Not a bad thing really.

When I saw drifts forming near the dining tables I thought about my little yellow tent and the giant snow wall around it. Is it surving?


Hand lines were hung outside to help us navigate between the tents and outhouses.

Doorways were swallowed and required routine shoveling.

Looking towards the galley at 40 knots with hard hitting, wet snow.

The COMMS shack.

Our micro weather station.

In the movie Forrest Gump there's a moment when Hank is in Vietnam jungle and talks about how the rain comes from every which way in all different forms. Well, during the last three days I've seen quarter-sized giant wet flakes from BYRD that soaks you in seconds, microscopic burning ice from the west that freezes the skin easily, light fluffy snow lifting from the ground and snow that falls from the sky like frozen bullets straight to the face. There's only one thing to do, retreat back to the kitchen.