South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


7th January: The Big Chill

From Jessica:

hi peoples,

I got cold for the first time yesterday. I know it sounds funny, me standing here at -32C, but it's actually not very easy to do unless you're a real bonehead... oh. You get piled with tonnes of cold weather gear and no matter what they say you think, "there's no way I can get all of that on without removing one of my limbs.....". Up until now, I have been wearing most of it, and , ok, you walk outside and might be prompted to comment on the fresh brisk weather we're having, but nothing life threatening.

However, I don't know what was different today, but walking out to the AASTO with Andre, the chill started in my legs and fingers. It was *icy*. By the time we got there, my neck gaiter was frozen to my nose, and I couldn't feel my chin. It took about half an hour in the AASTO warmth to feel even a little warm. It shocked me a little. It is deceptively beautiful here. As you stare out to the horizon, the far ice looks like a glistening inland sea, and I noticed for the first time today, as you look into the sun, the tiny snow particles, diamond dust, shimmers in the air wherever you look. In the long night, I am told the aurora are so bright you can read a book by them. And yet you can be dumb for just five minutes, and in serious trouble.

But on a much more sensible note, I participated in some very important science this afternoon. After a few necessary drinks required to perfect our scientific method, we assisted in a film being shot from a weather balloon held fifty feet in the air. Very important science. While the camera stared down, thirty of us lay on the snow and formed the letters 90S ( as in, 90 degrees south - someone was even the degree symbol) and then 2000. Everyone then piled into the small hut, and watched it on replay. It looked pretty good. However, I was much warmer, as I had gone back to my room in the meantime and put another layer of clothing on. Very toasty now.

After scrounging up some bits and pieces for the AASTO, Andre and I plan to start assembling the SODAR again. After arduously copying the manual ( the process took about an hour and a half), Andre informs me that it has been rediscovered in Sydney, so there is no need. Ah. Anyway, we'll attempt to have it hooting either today or tomorrow, all going well. (for those who don't know the SODAR is an acoustic radar, which pipes out cute, if rather repetitive tunes up into the sky and works out the atmospheric conditions from the echoes it gets back).

Andre also plans to retrieve SPIREX bits and pieces which seem to have been abandoned to the elements. Ok, that's probably all for todayl. Oh, wait, I've learned something else new . A girl I had met at dinner one night bumped into me outside, and without even looking at my nametag said, "it's Jess, isn't it?" I was amazed, and asked her how she knew. She replied that she recognised the bottom half of my face (which was all that was visible.) I now find myself memorising people's chins when I meet them. Very weird culture that this place inspires. I can just see the new set of compliments that this engenders. "I love the way the ice in your beard glimmers in the moonlight...." or "Your lips turn the most beautiful shade of blue in this weather...."

Enough silliness. Back to work. Chat soon,


Jess :)



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