18 January, 2003
A Day At Lake Bonney Camp - Part 2
Note: The number one question I have been asked is with regard to bathroom facilities, so I have tried to address this question in detail in this entry. It is not a pleasant component of camp life, but it is an essential one. There are strict guidelines for waste management and this entry explains how those requirements are met.
The team will be coming in for lunch and will be cold. I fill up the teakettle with water made warm from a large pot kept on the propane heater unit. I turn on the gas stove to boil the water and make sure there is room on the long table for everyone to eat lunch. We have the usual cabin bread with peanut butter and jelly, and the Kiwi's share their beef sticks and cheese. Some people opt for hot chocolate or tea, while others mix Raro (like Tang) with water for either a hot or cold drink.
Here at the jamesway, someone usually pops on to my computer after lunch to check for news from loved ones at home. Amber tells me that we've just lost power again for the forth time this afternoon. Today the wind has been inconsistent and the clouds have blocked much of the sun needed to power the solar panels. Our voltage meter on the wall shows 24 volts, enough to keep us up and running, but for some reason we keep losing power. So I throw on my grey fleece jacket and make a dash for the generator shed some thirty or so yards away. As I unlatch the door, the wind catches it and I have a brief battle with it to keep it from flying off its hinges. At F6 I learned the ins and outs of the generators and power conversion center and now it generally only takes me a minute or so to get power back up and running. I've mucked around with the solar and wind power enough today though, and it just isn't working, so I decide to start up the green generator. This is a much bigger, louder, and older one than the red ones at F6. Yesterday, Chris and I had figured out how to get it cranking, and so today it started right up and in no time, power was restored.
Because it is dry here and the wind is constant, you don't realize how much you sweat, and therefore how much moisture you are losing. It is quite easy to become dehydrated if you are not careful. So we eat and drink a lot; therefore, we must also then relieve our body of its waste frequently. We used a completely outdoor set-up while at Lake Fryxell, and are presently using an outhouse here at Lake Bonney.
At Fryxell, you had to take the fifty-yard walk over to the large bolder, behind which you find your entire bathroom needs. A large white paint pail with a trash bag liner (for solid waste and toilet paper) is enclosed inside of a square wooden box, which provides support for the toilet seat. Someone was smart enough to design a Styrofoam seat, which does not get cold like the plastic kind they tried to provide us with at the Berg Field Center before we left. We opted to take the less attractive light blue Styrofoam model with the digs and scratches in it. When you arrive at the outdoor bathroom, affectionately named by some members of our group as Thunder Hole, you immediately raise the red flag fastened to a bamboo pole to signal that the facilities are in use. You have to take the plastic lid off the pail, which is held down by a large rock placed on the lid. You then need to pick up the toilet seat to place it on the box, but first remove the large rock that is also keeping it from blowing away. Behind the box is a ziplock bag containing toilet paper and yes, you guessed correctly.... It's held down by a rock. At tenting sites, this is how we take care of our solid waste needs. It's not very comfortable, especially on a windy day, but the views are spectacular!
Liquid wastes must be kept separate. Next to the solid waste unit is a large plastic container know as a U barrel (urine). There is a funnel that we use to minimize spills, because when you come in from the field, you must empty your P bottle into the U barrel.
The outhouse at Lake Bonney Camp works similar to the outdoor facilities, except it is in enclosed in a small room. The U barrel, however, is located outside the outhouse. A funnel, attached to a hose, is secured to the wall so that liquid waste is carried out of the outhouse and runs directly into the U barrel outside by way of a small hole in the wall.
I have been in the outhouses at the Lake Bonney Camp, Lake Fryxell Camp, and the F6 Camp. Like bathrooms everywhere, you can find pictures that people have hung on the walls, humorous poems written on the back of the doors, and magazines. These outhouses are also designed with skylights to take advantage of the constant sunlight that provides passive solar heating to the room. It should be noted that all waste material is transported back out of the field and brought to McMurdo Station for final disposal.
In late afternoon, we start to think about dinner. Sarah has joined me back at the hut and is planning to prepare a meal. We head out of the jamesway and around the side to the outdoor freezer to see what is available. The freezer is built into the ground and the door is simply a wooden cover with a latch. Inside we find some frozen green beans that should go nicely with the frozen pork we found in the indoor freezer. We also notice a bag of frozen bagels and cream cheese, which will make a nice afternoon snack. Later we would find that the cream cheese, which crumbled the instant your knife made contact, tasted more like pasty ice crystals than any cheese I could identify. You learn to ignore expiration dates or not look at them at all. The granola cereal I had this morning stated, "Better if used by July 31, 1999". Had I realized before I finished, I may have opted for the fresher Tasteeos oat cereal that was stamped "sell by April 18, 2001". Ah..... but things down here last longer! Anyway, Sarah prepared a tasty meal, which also included instant creamy Alfredo noodles. However, the hit of the evening, as indicated by the number of mmmmmm's and sighs from the team, was chocolate pudding smothered in frozen red raspberries she had found in the outdoor freezer, tucked away behind the frozen broccoli spears and apple juice concentrate.
As we get ready to clean up after dinner, I noticed we are running low on water. So Sarah and I head out to the lake with a giant pot. There is a wooden platform we use to access the lake so that we can cross over the thin ice area. We stand on the board and kick a hole through the thin ice, then use a small pot to scoop the lake water into the pot. As you pour the water, about one fourth of every scoop blows right past the big pot, so you actually have to make wind adjustments as you pour.
It is now 9:15pm and everyone is pretty tired. Brenda, Sara, and Amber generally head up to the tents first. As the night goes on, we each exit the jamesway to head up the hill. Sometimes, as tired as you are, it is difficult to leave the warmth of the jamesway to head out into the cold, up the steep hill with your feet sinking into the silt with every step, and usually fighting an easterly wind. By the time you reach the top you are puffing, cold, and quite awake! Tom and I tend to be the night owls and are last to head up the hill. I try to quietly enter the tent, having to contort myself to get through the tiny entrance. As I stand up straight in the middle, I'm hit in the face with my own dangling socks. I throw my arms up quickly to clear my face of the offensive items. I quickly remove my coat and hat. Then as I take off the boots one by one, I try not to stand in the middle of the tent where so much dirt has collected. Instead I balance on my slippery nylon sleeping bag. Why I do this each night is beyond me. It's not like my socks are so clean I should worry about getting a bit of dirt on them! Off with the long underwear and on with a set I wear just at night. I quickly unzip my sleeping bag and rearrange the fleece liner from the night before. Each morning I am amazed to wake up to find the bottom half of my liner has some how become tangled around my lower half. How I can go to bed tucked in like a nice neat fajita wrap, and wake up like a cinnamon twist is a mystery.
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