Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WAIS - Dec 10, 2008 - Tim

Tim Bartholomaus

Date: 12-10-2008
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 11:45
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Visibility: Clear, clear to the horizon
Clouds: Some patchy clouds on the horizon
Precipitation: None
Animals: None but the camp folks starting to look a little scruffy
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy with pineapple and cantaloupe
Lunch: Salmon with orzo and green beans with slivered almonds
Supper: Prime rib with crumbled blue cheese, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies (including brussel sprouts- which were actually tasty), and lime meringue pie for desert (yum!)

WAIS Divide is amazing! Tim Bartholomaus here- after Logan's great start getting the blog going, we're starting a rotation in order to include a diversity of voices and distribute the reporting responsibilities. I got into camp on yesterday's C-130 flight, so today was my first full day out on the "flat white." And I'm really stunned. Every time I pick my head up, and look beyond the clear edges of our camp, I just smile and get all giddy. Being out on this expanse evokes so many interesting emotions. Certainly there's joy and happiness, but a sense of awe, appreciation for the rare privilege to live and work here for a couple months, and a touch of anxiety- just enough to give a thrill. The camp is really huge and extremely well equipped. We've all got so many sets of warm layers we could probably comfortably sit still in a storm at 40 below, but when I look out to the subtly textured, untrammeled snow that surrounds our camp, I am humbled. We are as close to the middle of nowhere as I could possibly imagine, and although the weather has been utterly lovely the past two days, the long and deep snow drifts that pile up behind the buildings in camp are good reminders of how fierce and unforgiving this landscape can be. Although there are flags (more like pennants on bamboo poles) marking trails all throughout camp, if one were to become lost or disoriented out on the great flat white, you could be seeing some tough times ahead, for sure. But well beyond these background, spooky thoughts, I am continuously impressed by the beauty of the light and shadows cast against the snow surface, how unlike anywhere else I've been this place is, and how lucky I feel to be here.

But I also feel like today was our first real day of work. Sure, we were pretty busy at times during our stay in McMurdo, but so much of that was in training courses, and the remainder where the little odds and ends to make sure that the project and ourselves had everything we'd need when we arrived in camp. Well, now we've arrived and there is Plenty to do. Today was a very busy day and I could write pages- but that would take a long time and in all likelihood, would be a least a little boring to some of you readers. Instead, I'm going to list a few things I'm surprised by and a few things I'm not surprised by.

- The camp is way bigger than I had imagined. There are 53 people here now- which I was expecting- but there's SO much stuff here- logistics and infrastructure stuff, recreation stuff, a large, almost entirely separate complex surrounding the drilling arch and an area about the size of two football fields dotted with cargo.
- The camp is Extremely well provided for. For example- There's even a separate little tent-building set aside for "science" office space, from which one may comfortably compose a blog entry. Our head cook, John, is the 11-year executive chef for a very nice restaurant in Acadia National Park, the Jordan Pond House. The food here in camp is excellent.
- I didn't sleep well last night. I always sleep well, but I woke up a couple times last night, including once at 2:15 am, and was taken aback by my brightly glowing tent walls. I'm almost sure it has to do with not being used to the bright, 24-hr light. I'm sleeping with a little mask on tonight.
- We (i.e.- the core handlers and I) joined the camp work/construction crews this morning for 15 minutes of yoga and stretching. I think this was actually my first time doing yoga in any kind of intentional way. One of the last things I expected at WAIS Divide was to be down on mats with a bunch of (mostly) dudes in Carhartts doing yoga to start out the work day. How civilized!
- I've taken a fair bit of pride in moving into my tent. I kind of expected I'd just treat it as a place to lay my head until the end of January, but during my limited free time, my "denning" instinct has come out and I've happily spent time in my tent, trying to get it organized and make it cozy and comfortable. I contentedly hung Christmas ornaments sent to me by my parents from the ceiling of my tent this afternoon.
- It's been a bit of a shock getting back into working mode, with schedules to keep. I'm really glad to finally be working on what I was brought down here to do, but I'll admit somewhat sheepishly that I had gotten used to the relaxed lifestyle in McMurdo.
- The corollary to this last one is the satisfaction one gets from working hard and efficiently as a team. Our crew has come together well and it's fun getting stuff done together.
- The excitement of being out here at WAIS divide has not dimmed one bit. Sure, I've only been here for 36 hrs, but I'm really loving the landscape and the camp.

Not surprises:
- Our tents, called Arctic Ovens, really are as warm as we were told. It was 65 degrees in mine when I got up this morning.
- It's about as cold working in -20 deg C (-4 deg F) temperatures as I expected. That is, it's really quite cold, and if you don't take care of yourself, you can get cold fingers or face or body quickly. But it's also quite possible to be warm, especially if up and moving around.
- I do miss my girlfriend, friends and family, and really wish I could share this place with them.
- Skate skiing out across the ice sheet, with a bit of an orange tint to the clouds off on the horizon, and the sharp, clear, lower-angle light of evening, is as cool as I thought it would be.