Friday, 9 November 2007

-20C and 20 knots

Yeah, today was a cold one to be outside for 10 hours. Today, Toddy and I surveyed the "D-line" - a set of locations to the south of Halley. The cold and wind was annoying. But my nemesis today was a 12 foot length of rubber-wrapped rope.

You see, on the Brunt Ice shelf, where evil crevasses may lurk, BAS demands that we tie our snowmobiles together when we are on uncertain ground (the Scandinavian Antarctic teams, I might add, see no need to do this).

So, there'll be Toddy in the front. He gets the privilege of falling into the crevasse, seeing as he's been a field expert so long that he could probably escape the crevasse by merely waving an ice-axe at it and saying "Stop wasting my time, crevasse." Then there's 10 metres of rope. Then there's a Nansen sledge - this is a classic sledge design that holds all our emergency stuff - petrol, radios, emergency tent, man-food (I'll describe that later), etc. Then there's 30 meters of rope. And then there's me and my snowmobile. And then there's another sledge, carrying my surveying equipment.

So, when this convoy gets in motion, I need to match Toddy's speed exactly. If I go too slow, Toddy is pulling me and my sledge, as well as the Nansen, and his poor skidoo can't handle it. However, if I go too fast, I end up driving over the rope to which I'm attached, and sawing away at it with my skiis. And this is expensive rope.

So for 40km of careful driving at 20km/h, my entire existence is dedicating to concentrating intently upon the rope in front of me, making sure that it is slack, but not slack enough to catch a ski, while navigating uneven terrain at -35C windchill. Yeah, two solid hours of staring at a rope, and swearing at it.

However, we did get the job done - we surveyed six points and did a bit of reconnaissance to locate a possible landing point for the ship that is due in a bit over a month. So, hooray for a productive day!

And tomorrow, I'm on gash duty - a BAS term for domestic stuff, like cleaning the living area, doing dishes, etc. I think it's an old naval term, reflecting BAS' origins, but when I google it, all I get are blogs from BAS. Must remember to ask someone.

Anyway, perhaps tomorrow will provide a good opportunity to give all y'all a photo tour of the joint. Stay tuned. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to stick my windburned face into a jar of lanolin cream! And perhaps I'll stare at a rope for a few more hours, because I feel like I'm skiving off from my purpose in life...must...protect...rope....

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