The weather is fierce


I have not been keeping a journal. My apologies. I am going to go with it being due to the cold and wind that seem to control much of my routine each day.

Yesterday we stayed at camp. The winds are blowing hard. There was steady at mid-30 knot wind speeds with gusts up to 40 knots. For those who do not know. A knot is a unit of speed common to boat travel (and for some reason Antarctic weather forecasting) equal to one nautical mile (1.852 km) per hour, or approximately 1.151 miles per hour. At McMurdo, there are three weather conditions, and the only only that allows foot travel is Condition III. This is the safest weather, whereas Conditions II and I require special permission for protected transport or no transport at all (respectively). The definition of Condition III weather is: visibility greater than a 1/4 mile, air temperature and wind chill above -75 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind speeds less than 48 knots (that is 55 mph). To reiterate, this describes “good” weather. Ha! For today, you can think of us driving around skidoos in 35+ mph winds. Not that fun, but also not beyond the danger level. For those not very experienced in windy weather, let me give you some perspective. Hurricanes must have maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph (>64 knots). A tropical storm  has winds in the 39-73 mph range (34-63 knots), and a tropical depression has wind speeds less than 38 mph (<33 knots). Hurricanes (northern hemisphere storms) are ranked using the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, ranging from category one through five for winds speeds starting at 74 mph (64 knots) and the last category denoting winds greater than 157 mph (137 knots). Tornadoes use the Enhanced Fujita scale, ranking tornado intensity. The lowest damage category ranges from 65-85 mph (56-74 knots) and the highest category denotes wind speeds greater than 200 mph (174 knots).

Today the winds are still blowing powerfully at low 30 knot speeds, but we went out anyways. It was fairly miserable, but science cannot be stopped. And we cannot really afford to let some wind prevent us from utilizing this time to finish the field work. Two days ago I woke up early to start going through the samples to bag and box them up in the wooden rock boxes for travel back to Santa Barbara. After these two days of blowing snow, the samples are all buried. Hopefully we can find them all. Fortunately I set them out numerically in rows, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. The toilet tent has been reduced to violently flapping tethers of shredded tent material. The wind very effectively destroyed that tent with little effort. Hopefully the winds stop soon. The number of camp chores are growing and none will be fun with this wind. To top it off, on the return ride to camp, Demian’s and my bags fell off the sled. John found them back at the south side of the moraine arm we cross heading north away from Ascent Glacier.

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