Terry's Field Journal: A trip to the Kiwi A-frame (c) Terry Trimingham April 14 - 16, 1995
April 16, 1995 Easter Sunday in McMurdo. It is -11 F with 20 knot winds, I am sure that makes it MUCH colder when you figure wind chill. Brrrrrr. This past week was a quick one because of the holiday - only five work days instead of the customary six!
This last Friday, a friend and I had reserved the Kiwi A-Frame for the evening. The Kiwis have a really nice little A-Frame cabin out on the Ross Ice Shelf that is used in the summer to stage their survival and snow courses out of. It was salvaged out of the refuse a number of years ago and spruced up. Now it is very cozy and nice!
In the summer it is off limits, but during the winter folks are allowed to go out and spend the night. As we had a two day weekend, we thought it would be fun to spend one of the nights out "camping". We invited four friends to join us.
That morning the wind was blowing and it didn't look good. We had wanted to go out there the night before and turn on the stove, but the weather had been bad. (The stove that is used for heating the cabin works very slowly, and takes about 6 hours to make things comfortable at all). One of the guys we invited was one of the policy setters for checking out of town on excursions like this. He was saying that the forecast HAD to be nice, or we wouldn't be allowed to check out.
All morning we called the weather office to figure out what was going on, and couldn't get a straight answer out of them. At one point we decided to cancel the trip, but then I got to thinking about it and decided I wanted to at least TRY. In spite of the foreboding weather, a couple of guys went out there in the morning and turned on the heater.
We got off work and went home to pack and eat dinner before going to the A-Frame. At 6:45 we all met to get picked up, but the driver went to the wrong dorm and ended up being 30 minutes late!!!
We rode out to the A-Frame in two sprytes. A spryte is a tracked vehicle...it looks kind of like a little box on two tracks. They are noisy! I was in the back with all the luggage, and whenever I tried to lean against the door it would pop open!
It was very windy when we left, but as we looked out we could see the full moon rising in the blowing snow! The A-Frame is about 6 miles(?) there. It is out in the same direction as the ski hill and Castle Rock, just a bit further, and on the Ross Ice Shelf.
The A-Frame is actually in an area described by Scott and his men as the "Windless Bight" and when we got there it was dead calm!!! Very nice also to see the full moon shining on the snow.
The six of us all went in and got settled a bit, then we went out to look at the beauty all around, marvel at the QUIET, and see the stars. We couldn't see Mt. Erebus due to the clouds, but the base of Mt. Terror was bathed in cold silver light and it was wondrous!
We had a great time just kicking back and talking that evening. The hut had heated up and was cozy. It has carpet on the floor, a couch, windows, wooden walls, and seems just like a cabin in the woods! We had a lantern for light. The hut has seven "beds" (more like little benches): 3 down stairs, 4 in the loft upstairs. Counting the couch, there is actually space for eight to sleep.
Four of us went upstairs to the loft, but I had a hard time sleeping...the end I was on was right over the heater and it was suffocatingly HOT! We also had polar-strength down sleeping bags, so that made it worse! I threw my bag downstairs and tried to sleep on the floor, but that turned out to be too cold. Finally I found an empty bench, and that was just right! During the night I had to get up to relieve myself. Thank heaven it was CALM; I didn't have to put on the entire survival gear just to use the toilet!
The toilet facilities were outside, in a Scott tent (a pyramid-looking yellow tent). The floor cloth was missing, so it was just snow, and there were a couple of buckets in there, one for liquid and one for solids. Have you ever tired to do one at a time???? It is NOT easy and I had problems with that! (I think I got some liquid in with the solids...oh well!). Anyway, that was the big adventure of the night, going out to the Scott tent. When I did I was able to cool off a little. It was snowing in the middle of the night, and the snowflakes were like crystalline feathers floating around me and landing on my sweater. It was VERY quiet and magical!
The next morning we made a couple of pots of coffee and sat around blabbing and eating donuts and bagels. The three women had brought our knitting and we all pulled that out. One friend and I decided to walk back to McMurdo, and by 1:30 we were all packed and ready. One other person walked with us for a mile or two. We saw the sprytes come out to pick everyone up, and when they passed us going back into town, she jumped on too.
The walk back took three hours. It was pleasant and we had hardly any wind at all! When we got into McMurdo the wind was howling and the snow was blowing! We were told it had been that way since we left, so we were really lucky to have been in such a NICE spot! I was glad for the walk; it had been a few days since I had gotten out and stretched my legs. I am going to have to find a place in my schedule to go use the exercise room!
It has been so cloudy you can't see the stars or the moon, but that one peek of the full moon was a real treat!
Today we got up and battled the wind to get out to the ham shack. We weren't able to talk to anyone, but we did hear Australia, Manila, Newfoundland, Argentina and the States! The walk out there made me appreciate the early explorers to this continent...we had to double over and push against that wind! Whew! Not my idea of Easter weather!
Copyright (c)1995 Terry Trimingham. This information may be redistributed online for education projects as long as this copyright notice is included. Permission to use this material in print or for commercial purposes must be obtained in writing prior to use from the author.