The First StormJanuary 3rd, 2012 by Patrick Lynch
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.