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2 December, 2003

Condition 1

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. We woke up this morning to discover the Condition 2 sign still scrolling, but at breakfast people were discussing how they thought we were walking a fine line between condition 2 and condition 1. Knowing the weather was going to be rough I put on big red and braced myself for the walk over to Crary. Like yesterday, the wind was blowing so strong that the swinging power lines sounded like airplanes flying overhead. It was hard to see and my visibility was reduced even more as I had to keep looking down to avoid being hit in the face with wet snow. While I thought I’d been moving in a fairly straight direction, I soon noticed that I’d veered to the right and had almost overshot the bridge that takes me to the lab. While I did not even come close to a whiteout, experience, I now understand how people can get lost in these types of conditions. (Hence the bucket simulation in Happy Camper School) The slick snow and ice also made a slippery surface on which to walk, especially with the strong winds. I was fortunate that I did not slip. Several people were seen blowing into snowdrifts and slipping on the ice.

Throughout the morning we monitored the conditions out our lab’s window and the McMurdo website. We could feel the building rumbling and hear the splattering of snow and ice hitting the windows. By mid morning signs were posted on all the doors telling us that we were not to leave as we had entered into Condition 1. In order to be classified as a conditions one, we have to have wind speeds greater than 55 knots, wind chills colder than –100F, OR visibility of less than 100ft. I suspect our classification had mainly to do with visibility. While in a condition 1, no one is allowed to leave.

The weather must have been teetering between one and two, as by lunchtime we are allowed to leave the building as long as we went in pairs. Barb and I fought our way to the main building and were greeted with the red Condition One warning on the scrolling sign. The galley was packed with people, many who were “stranded” in the main building unable to leave. For some this was a day off from work, much like the tropical storm/hurricane days I’ve experienced in Florida. People were seen hanging out in their dorms watching movies, playing cards, or chatting in the galley. Depending on your job in McMurdo some were happy to have this shut down while others, especially the scientists counting on going into the field, were disgusted. Time on the ice is precious and any delay can be detrimental to their project.

Surprisingly, our condition 1 left us as quickly as it came. Within a few hours, the sun was shinning and we could again see outside our window. We were back to condition three. After finishing up our lab work, Barb and I did a little exploring, taking pictures of our snowed in little town. What an amazing day!

1. A view out our lab's window taken my first week in McMurdo. (Condition 3)

2. A view out the same window taken during Monday’s Condition 2. That red thing is a person!

3. Same view during Condition 1

4. A sign posted on the exit doors of Crary Lab. Why do you think they do not want people to leave?

5. The Condition 1 warning sign posted on the McMurdo intranet. Conditions can differ in various locations. Why might it be important to know the conditions in other places?

6. Heading into the main building for lunch.

7. Barb and I standing in front of the scrolling Condition 1 sign posted in the main building.

8. Making my through the snowdrifts that were nearly waist high.

9. A picture of McMurdo’s hospital/medical building taken my first week on campus.

10. A picture of the medical building today.

11. Knee deep in snow.

12. Making a snow angel.

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