Storm - © International Polar Foundation

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Live from Antarctica: Tuesday 27 January

We are not sure how long we will have current for today, so I will try to be quick.

The storm that blew all yesterday abated somewhat and lulled us into a false sense of calm. Then again during the night, the wind rose to over 45 knots (about 90km/h), and by morning was driving hard into our small tents. The blows were so violent that they rearranged whatever happened to be up against the tent wall. We quickly dress and emerge, making sure not to leave any gaps in the openings. There is a complete white-out, and you can barely see your own boots. The wind is so strong that you have to lean into it to move forward. Nothing is visible so I head towards where I hear the flags flapping from outside the office tent. We really should paint that door red. It takes a while to find it.

We dig our way into the office tent, where we light the stove. There is snow everywhere blown in from the smallest gaps. Benoit, the mountain guide, enters covered in a film of snow. He says that quite a few people have made it to the Mess Tent. We head to the Mess tent with a rope to secure the way. Impossible to see where we are going, and very disorienting as the snow has completely rearranged the ground level so you continuously fall over large drifts that are impossible to see in the white-out.

In the Mess tent, nearly everyone is congregated, and the stove is humming warmly. A number of people still haven't appeared. The wind picks up tempo, as Alain and Benoit head off with a rope to try and find the missing people.

The generator won't start, so Jacques the Canadian and I head over to the "Laundry" to get some hot water to try and defrost it. The Laundry container is snowed in, though, so while Arctic Jacques, happy as a husky in the driving snow and wind, digs, Bernard and I use some 95% ethanol left by a passing microbiologist to defrost the contact. Another Canadian tip from Ronald. These Canadians are quite useful when there's a blizzard. By the time the generator starts, our wet clothing has frozen into an icy carapace, and we have probably eaten quite a bit of flying snow.

When we return to the Mess Tent, we must look quite spectacular, as everyone turns to laugh. There remains one more obstacle before we can have a cup of coffee - we have to find the fuses which have blown in the electrical circuit. I groan inwardly, as the thought of heading out again into the horizontal snow storm, when my clothes have just begun to fume and smoke as they dry, really does not appeal. Luckily, someone manages to locate the various fuses and the kitchen is back on stream.

However, this does not apply to the office, where the electricity won't return until the afternoon. No e-mail. Johan is in withdrawal. He has urgent things to order. There is no hurry - nothing is going to land here for the next couple of days.
The wind has fallen again and everyone is busy digging out paths in the camp and securing the containers. The sheer quantity of snow that has deposited is quite staggering. Outside the Mess tent there are drifts almost 2m high, and we have been digging all day to keep the door free.

Not sure what tonight will bring. If the wind picks up again, I'm not sure which tents will survive. Some have already been flattened by the snow. We could take everyone into the station as a rope has now been installed to secure the way. You cannot see the ground and without a rope, there is no way to get to the station. We'll decide tonight. If the wind gets worse, we will probably sleep better up there.

Just as any other day, everyone went to work as soon as the rope was installed. There is a lot to finish before the Inauguration. Not one complaint is heard, not a single whingeing remark. How cool is that??

The army guys cannot go on traverse and so everyone has been busy with the cabling, when they are not digging. In a while, I will try to find the station and see how things are going. Alain H has been up there, busy as a bee all day to keep all the various teams on track. He has been making sure also that everything is shut down as piles of snow have blown into the hangars. Of course, all work on the solar panels has stopped, but the ones that are in place are holding. On the roof, it is -50°C with the wind chill. But someone has to check that everything is tied down.

We are all making good use of the FAS suits and the Skidoo "space suits" as there is no other way of keeping out the snow. It's funny to see the change that comes over someone when they don one of these suits. They walk with a new swagger, which has little to do with the stiffness of the fabric. I have to fight hard not to laugh. Maybe it is true, maybe clothes do make the man in the end... Another surrealistic day in the Deep South.

Nighat Amin

Author: IPF

Picture: Storm - © International Polar Foundation

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