Terry's Field Journal: (c) Terry Trimingham March 12-18, 1995
Another Sunday. Today is kind of blowy, and of course it is cold as usual. It has been about -11F most of the day, with wind to bring the chill factor down to about -50F! Brrrrr.
Last week seems so far away to try to remember what I did! My job is coming along. I am starting to have a routine, and getting to know the guys better. At the beginning of the week we had a little "herbie" (blizzard). The temperature went up to +10F and the wind started out of the south. It got quite windy, and there was a lot of blowing snow. The visibility was very poor, and that kept up for 2 days! I think it started sometime on Sunday afternoon or evening. When I got up on Monday they had strung up the "herbie lines". Herbie lines are just ropes that go from building to building with a flag tied on every 15 feet or so. Sometimes it gets so bad that you have to hold onto the line and just follow it to get to the building with the galley in it! (The galley is just across a parking lot from my dorm - I would say about 500 yards or so?) With the wind whipping snow everywhere it is hard to see anything and to keep your eyes open! The snow is very, very fine; it is more like dust than anything else. It finds its way into everything if you aren't careful!
I don't know if you remember my telling you about the weather system when I wrote about the herbie we had last October. To refresh...Condition 3 is normal good weather, Condition 2 is when the visibility drops and the wind chill increases, and Condition 1 is the worst. You are supposed to stay inside when it is Condition 1 and not go out. Our herbie last week had the weather at Condition 2 in McMurdo most of the time, but Condition 1 everywhere else (ie, Scott Base, Willy Field, and roads going to those places). It did go to a Condition 1 for a little while one afternoon, and all the heavy equipment operators had to come in. Anyway, I liked to hear the wind howling whenever I went outside and feel the tiny snowdust on my face. It is stimulating to witness the power of Mother Nature like that.
Monday after work I went to the new aerobics class. Do you remember me describing the galley as having an "E" side and an "O" side? (See Special meals 10-17-94 TO 12-2-94.) Well, that has changed...they took all the tables and chairs out of the "E" side, and we are having our aerobics class in there. I am still getting over my cold, so I don't know if I will go regularly or not right away.
After that I went up to the Greenhouse. I hadn't been there for a couple of weeks, and as usual it had changed. The herbs had been re-worked and now there is a LOT of cilantro being started. We don't have any parsley or chamomile anymore. The tomatoes are VERY bushy now with LOTS of fruit on them, and the new peppers were already producing (we had had to start over about the time I went on R&R as the pump for that system had broken). I picked one of the red peppers remembering how sweet and nice the old ones had been. When I bit into it I was surprised to discover that we are growing jalapenos now! WOW! The floor had gotten all muddy and so I swept and mopped the place up. With the storm outside we were getting a nice covering of white on the ground, and hopefully there will soon be no dirt to track in!
Tuesday the herbie was still blowing, and you could see large drifts in various places around town. Some doors you tried to go out of had piles of snow over a foot deep in front of them. After work I was having dinner with some friends and found out one of them was going to Arrival Heights to check the scientific instruments up there. (He is the science tech, and maintains experiments that different scientists have set up). Arrival Heights is normally off-limits to the McMurdo population. It is located a few miles away from the station. You get to it by heading towards Castle Rock and then turning left. I asked if I could go along and joined the science tech and one of his friends. The three of us were going to take a tracked vehicle, but we couldn't get it started, so we had to take a pickup truck. It was still Condition 2 outside, and we all packed survival bags in case the weather got worse and we were stuck out there. I had extra clothes, water, food, and my toothbrush! The snow had found little ways to get into the truck around the doors, and we had to push out a LOT of snow from the cab and scrape the INSIDE of the windows before we could go! It was fun seeing something new. The experiments going on deal with the Earth's magnetic field (and changes to it), ionospheric fluctuations, ELF/VLF measurement (extra low and very low frequencies), and ozone/UV stuff. The view from up there is nice, and the wind was really howling!
Wednesday at work I found I had another duty I hadn't realized....squee-geeing. When a vehicle comes in for maintenance it often has snow on it. During the herbie they were plastered white! After they sit in the shop for a little while they drip drip drip and soon there are huge puddles all over. It isn't fun walking through the puddles, and there is a lot of grease and oil on the floor anyway, so I try to scrape the water down the drains. The drains seem to be elevated, because the water refuses to go down them unless you aim precisely. Anyway, that kept me pretty busy all day!
The herbie finally stopped (and temperatures had fallen a bit). After work a friend and I walked for about 40 minutes to get some fresh air. I decided I liked that way better than the aerobics class. After that I went to the ladies craft circle. It was fun meeting other women and seeing what they were working on. One of them is REALLY good, and was teaching the others knitting. I started on a pair of socks I can wear as slippers. I had a really good time and will look forward to going to that each week.
Thursday was a great day for me. I got lessons on a Caterpillar IT28. It is a HUGE forklift (able to lift and carry 8500 lbs)! I have wanted to learn about forklifts for a long time. One of the mechanics gave me a GREAT lesson. Not only how to operate it, but a lot about the machine itself. It was somewhat scary at first, but I am going to practice and hope to get good at it! After work I heard that Scott Base was looking for people to come over. Scott Base opens it's doors to McMurdo on Thursday evenings to come over and shop or socialize, and they also invite about 10 people from McMurdo to come over for dinner every week. You are supposed to sign up to come on your birthday or 1/2 birthday (mine is in July). Last Thursday was the first one, and no one had signed up. I know the cook, and when the cook at McMurdo told me Scott Base had thawed out a bunch of meat and was looking for folks, I called over and asked if a friend and I could go. It was a great meal, Scotty has a different way of cooking (he is cream for dessert along with hot bread pudding! yum! I have been eating three meals a day and constantly feel full. But I think I need the energy to get used to the new routine and the cold. My job is pretty physical compared to sitting at the radios.
Friday I spent the afternoon riding around with one of the equipment operators to learn more about the IT28. He had me doing all kinds of fun stuff, picking up things and taking them places. At the end of the afternoon he said I was qualified to get a license, so now I can really go out and use it! After work I decided to have a "housewarming" since my room was so NICE. I invited about eight people over to watch a movie. It so happened that on TV that night they had "Little Buddha", and so we watched that. It was fun having folks over; I think five actually came. The movie was filmed 1/2 in Seattle and 1/2 in Katmandu, so it was neat for me to see lovely footage of two of my favorite places! It made me a little homesick I have to admit.)
Yesterday the weather was nice. The wind actually calmed down! The whole station was involved in "daisy picking" after lunch. ("Picking daisies" is our term for picking up litter.) Everyone in the shop got all bundled up and we went out and cleaned up all the miscellaneous stuff piled around. We SHOULD have done it BEFORE the herbie and we wouldn't have had to dig stuff out! I got to operate the IT28 a little bit, and felt more confident, so that was fun too!
We finished a little early, and it was so nice out I asked a friend if he would walk the Castle Rock Loop with me. We were going to go to a big party at Scott Base, but days with no wind are RARE around here. We rushed home and got all our gear on. The weatherman said it was varying from a high of +4F to a low of -18F. There was barely any breeze when we started, but it came up later and we found out that it could have gotten as low as -50F! Anyway, we both tried out some winter clothing we had been issued and had never used. I had on some FX boots...they have felt liners, AND you wear socks AND little fleecy booties...my feet stayed toasty! (With all the stuff you have to put on your feet you have to get the boots a size larger than normal, and have to learn how to walk!). We also wore our down parkas. In the summer we just wore wind jackets as we knew we sweated a lot and it isn't that cold. Winter temperatures require more. By the time we checked out at the Firehouse and got our radio, I was getting dehydrated from being too warm with all the clothes! I hadn't been around the loop for 3-4 weeks, and forgot how much you do exert yourself. It takes 2 hours to get to Castle Rock, and then another 2 hours to walk the other 1/2 of the loop and then back into McMurdo. It USED to be a breeze for me to do; this time it was WORK! With all those clothes on we felt like true polar explorers! There were drifts of snow with interesting sastrugi we had to cross, and the snow squeaked and crunched under our boots. You had to keep your face protected, and I had my neck gaiter pulled up over my nose. In no time I had beads of ice on my eyelashes and the vapor from my breathing froze on my bangs and the hair around my face leaving it frosty WHITE. My friend got icicles on his beard and mustache (just like in Dr. Zhivago!). About 1/3 of the way I pooped out. It was so hard to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. The first 1/2 is ALL uphill and a LOT of work! I really wanted to finish the loop, so we crouched down and had some water and candy and that pretty much revived me. I had to take my hands out of my mittens to get the food though, and my hands got VERY cold. There are 4 structures you can get into along the route, and so we stopped in the second one (very close to Castle Rock itself) to get out of the wind (it had been a steady breeze along that ridge). It was beautiful out. From up on that ridge you could see the open water. There were dark gray clouds over the water and the water looked black. The sun was angling low in the sky and coming through the clouds with a golden hue. There was no view of the Royal Society Mountains and the continent; we haven't had that view for over a week--too cloudy. Mt. Erebus had a little of it's base showing and it was golden-pink with the setting sun. The second half of the loop was out of the wind pretty much and on the flat. It was really nice to be out there. We got to Scott Base but decided to skip the party. Got a ride back to town about 9pm and we were both BUSHED.
Today I am still pretty RELAXED after all that effort! It is a good feeling though!
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.