The First Storm

January 3rd, 2012 by Patrick Lynch

Traverse progress as of Dec. 21, 2011.

By Lora Koenig

Byrd Station (Antarctica), 22 December —

The traverse team got hit with their first storm last night.  Everyone is safe and well.  Here is the MODIS satellite image over Antarctica from Dec 21, 2011 showing the storm covering most of West Antarctica.  The team experienced 35 to 40 knot winds with blowing snow.

It is hard to explain what it is like to be in an Antarctic storm but I will try.  First, you should know that during Happy Camper training everyone goes through a drill to simulate a whiteout storm where they make you put a white bucket on your head.  While this does simulate the fact that you cannot see in a storm it does not capture the complete experience.  In an Antarctic storm , similar to the one the team experienced, the snow blows around so much that if were in a neighborhood you certainly could not see the house directly across the street.  The blowing snow builds up in piles around the tents and has to be dug out occasionally to keep the tents from getting buried.  When you step outside to shovel you have to make sure all of your skin is covered because the blowing snow stings when it hits your face, just like being sand blasted.  During the storm the team will only leave their tents if they have to and flags are put up about every 10 feet, forming paths between the tents, so no one will get lost.

The snowmobiles and sleds are always parked downwind from the camp and strapped down just in case a storm rolls in.  In a bad storm the snowmobile engines can get packed in with snow that has to be dug out once the storm ends and before the snowmobile can be started.

The team is holding at Camp 5 today and securing camp yet again.  There is another storm on the way.  The team will rest and bunker down in their tents for a few more days until the weather clears.  They will probably open a few holiday presents early that contain card games to keep them occupied while they wait.

2 Responses to “The First Storm”



    I wish you a SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR 2012. I wish I were there with you at the ANTARCTICA whIch I’m longing to discover.

    Please, tell me how can I reach you. I’m currently a Freelance Researcher in Climatic Phenomenon from MAURITIUS.

    Thank you. See you soon.

  2. Dr Alexander Jablanczy MD says:

    Same as my other comment. Why dont you build a barchan and an antibarchan in the opposite direction for I found on my Lake Superior but also on lesser lakes ice fishing windbreaks that a single lazy C lets try (would actually suck in wind from
    the opposite direction so it would look something like this from Byrds eye view.
    c ) the c of course much less concave. The wind hitting the larger C.
    I found also that 2 m wasnt necessary 1 m was enough.
    So you could predict the prevailing windstorm direction and experiment with 1m 2m 3m etc windbreak with taller centre and tapered ends. And a lower antiwindbreak in the leeward side. You would have to try out if it should be 1 2 3 4 or 5 m from the tent.
    It cant be that physics is different in the Antarctic than in the almost Arctic here in N Ontario.
    Possibly my suggestion is wrong as the windbreak might actually attract more snow to build up but thats why we have trial and error you must try it out. Various heights shapes distances might make a difference.
    Maybe you would need two parallel windbreaks the outer one much farther away and the inner one much closer so the more massive one would take the brunt of the storm. Maybe a forest of vertical ice pillars would work an icehenge rather than a single structure.
    Should try these out. i am sure one of these would do it and you would have no wind in a 5O knot windstorm.

Notes from the Field