Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Big White Fist

Yippee! I'm on holiday next week!

After being couped up for six months, we're all looking forwards to getting out to do some exploring, see the penguins and generally stretch our legs. If we can. August brought the end of darkness, warmer temperatures and the return of normal days, leading me to lower my guard thinking the worst was over. I'd survived an Antarctic winter! An easy few months and I'd be riding Table Mountain in the morning and surfing all afternoon. How hard can it be?

How wrong could I be.

As viewers of The March of The Penguins will known, if the Antarctic winter has its cold, the spring has its gales. If I has forgotten this statistical detail, over the last three days I've been brutally reminded that despite the internet and big-screen DVDs, this is a mean, harsh place where humans aren't really meant to live at all.

Snow creeps past the door seals

It wasn't so much the magnitude (sure, we've had 60+ knt gusts before), but the duration of the last blow that brought on this opinion. Almost 4 days at over 40 knots. On Monday and Tuesday it the tech-service guys battled the elements, tweaking and bashing to defeat the snow and wind. The buildings rocked and commuting sucked, but at least I wasn't on digging duty.

On Wednesday morning, team Met entered the ring. At about 11.00, Tamsin battled to the BART to try and get a balloon away (very difficult as the downdraft tends to smash the sonde into the ground before the helium gets a chance to lift it clear), and found the blimp-haven making a bid for freedom!

Despite being sheltered by a sledge full of helium cylinders, the front door of the haven had blown in, opening it up like a giant windsock. The left hand side was pulled clear of the ground and flapping dangerously.

A radio call brought out a large gang, armed with ropes and snow stakes. Lines to the wayward corners brought the shelter back under control, allowing us to safely enter and rig a pulley system to bring the front back together and get the door closed. The blimp lay wrecked in a corner, donating its moorings which we used to secure the frame internally. Simultaneously, the outside team attached new guylines and piled snow over the remains of the valance.

The Blimp Haven back under control

The front door, secured by ropes and snow

It took an hour to secure the shelter and a further trip after lunch to add extra guylines. The storm's now (midnight, Wednesday) starting to subside and I'm hoping we'll get the repairs done in time to start my trip roughly on time. I'm also hoping never to see such a storm from inside a pyramid tent...


Blogger Paul Capewell said...

This is a mean, harsh place where humans aren't really meant to live at all.

Salient words indeed. I hope you get away soon!

1:26 pm GMT  

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