23 October, 1997

23 October 97

I was able to get data on individual tube feet today for the same tube feet on which respiration rates were obtained last night. The results were very encouraging. It will now be possible to go forward with the full blown study. Dr. Adam Marsh and myself will get together soon to work out these details.

A Condition I weather situation was declared today at 1:45 PM. We had 15 minutes notice to either return to our dorms or stay in the lab I explained the 3 types of weather conditions in my 12 October journal entry. In Condition I there are sustained wind speeds which exceed 55 knots, the wind chill is lower than minus 100 degrees F, and visibility is less than 100 ft. You are not allowed outside during Condition I. By 8:00 PM the storm had gotten much worse. Survival specialists strung ropes between the Crary Laboratory and the Galley (the cafeteria building) as an emergency exit. I had heard reports that winds had been in excess of 100 mph.

Since I had been working in the bowels of the laboratory building all day I decided to go upstairs and look around. The upper floor of the Crary lab is very spacious. The library, computer center and lecture areas are located here. There are also many windows which offer a beautiful view of McMurdo Sound. I observed that the wind was causing the walls to shake and it was very hard to see anything at all out the windows. There weren't very many people working and, all in all, things were relatively normal.

About 10:00PM I made a break for my dorm room and discovered that emergency ropes also connected the dorm buildings to the Galley. It seemed as though McMurdo had been transformed into a giant spider web. The wind was ferocious but I wasn't out in it very long. Later in the evening as I sat in my room I could feel the building shaking. The wind had gotten very bad and the energy of the storm was quite evident. I heard lots of commotion in the halls and after awhile I decided to investigate.

A crowd of excited people had gathered. They were climbing over each other and straining to see out the windows. When I got my turn I observed 4 or 5 small dumpsters being blown around like tumbleweeds and debris was flying in all directions.

When I had had my fill of this I returned to my room to work and read until about 1:00AM. The storm's intensity had not diminished at all. I fell asleep to the sounds of the storm and the vibrations of the shaking building.

Things to ponder:

1. Research the definition and technical requirements that make a parcticular weather event a hurricane. After you have done this see if you can compare hurricanes to what I've described concerning today's McMurdo weather. In what ways do you think these two are similar? In what ways are they different?

2. As I mentioned once before, I have been reading Apsley Cerry-Garrard's account of The Scott Expedition entitled, "The Worst Journey In The World." It's ironic that last evening I happened to be reading about an extremely violent storm which occurred while the author and two others, Wilson and Bowers (both of whom were later to die on the return journey form the South Pole) were on a winter journey to Cape Crozier to obtain penguin eggs for scientific study.

It had taken them nearly a month to go the 35 - 40 miles from Cape Evans often in minus 70 degree F conditions. Since it was winter there was constant darkness. Conditions were horrendous and they had to endure it constantly. It took an hour or more to get into a sleeping bag. Getting it warmer it only meant that the ice melted so that you slept in the wet. He describes them looking forward to the days when the temperature climbed to minus 50 degrees F. They considered that to be warm. By the time they arrived at their destination they were in very bad shape and had used up 5 of their 6 containers of stove fuel. They built an igloo out of rocks and set their tent up next to it to store their gear. When they finally settled into their makeshift igloo a violent storm hit, sucked the roof off the igloo, and blew away their tent. Here is some of that account:

"The top of the door opened in little slits and that green Willesden canvass flapped into hundreds of little fragments in fewer seconds than it takes to read this. The uproar of it all was indescribable. Even above the savage thunder of that great wind on the mountain came the lash of the canvass as it was whipped into tiny strips. The highest rocks which we had built into our walls fell in upon us, and a sheet of drift came in. ...when the roof went I felt this was the end. What else could I think? We had spent days in this place through the darkness in cold such has never been experienced by human beings. We had been out for four weeks under conditions in which no man had existed previously for more than a few days, if that. During this time we seldom slept except from sheer physical exhaustion, as men sleep on the rack; and every minute of it we had been fighting for the bedrock necessities of bare existence, and always in the dark. We had kept ourselves going by enormous care of our feet and hands and bodies, by burning oil, and by having plenty of hot food. Now we had no tent, one tin of oil left out of six, and only part of our cooker. When we were lucky and not too cold we could almost wring water from our clothes, and directly we got out of our sleeping bags we were frozen into solid sheets of armoured ice. In cold temperatures with all the advantages of a tent over our heads we were already taking more than an hour of fierce struggling and cramp to get into our sleeping bags - so frozen were they and so long did it take us to thaw our way in. No! Without the tent we were dead men."

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