my trip to the Antarctica and the South Pole

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Crazy Weather...

At 1am, I woke up to my friend Tony's voice over the all-call system. Normally, this would mean it was a Saturday night and Tony was knackered, making jokes, but this was a week night, and you'd better have a real good reason for getting on the all-call at this hour on a week night. I woke up just enough to decipher what he was saying. Tony was announcing that we had finally hit -100F for the first time this season. It seemed too soon for this...I still feel like in some ways, winter is just starting. But sure enough, I looked on my computer and there was -100F. I didn't step outside to feel it, but I can't imagine it feels too much different than -92F, which is what it had been all day when I was outside. If this had happened during the day, people would have immediately been scrambling to the Upper Berthing Sauna, which would have already been cranked up to 200F (requiring putting the sauna's thermometer in a bucket of ice to over-ride it's high temperature limit) in a matter of minutes for the 300 club.

The 300 club is a "club" that someone made up a long time ago here. To get into the 300 club, you have to sit in the Sauna until it hits 200F, and then run outside into -100F, and run all the way around the South Pole Marker, with nothing but your boots on. I'm scared to death to do it, but of course, I will. There are all kinds of legends about the 300 club, with people getting frost-nip on unmentionable parts, and they say you cough for a week after doing it. People talk about the different strategies for it...whether or not to use your hands to cover things, whether to run or walk, how sweaty to get in the sauna before rushing outside... It's a pretty serious tradition here.

I found out the next day that -100 was actually a record low for that day.

As if hitting -100F weren't enough excitement weather-wise, the next day, a much stranger thing happened. It warmed up to a balmy -38F...a 60 degree change in about 12 hours. We hadn't seen temps that high in months, and I hadn't expected to see anything that high for the rest of my time here. I actually wouldn't have even believed it, but I knew it was warm when I went outside and didn't feel my face freezing when it wasn't covered. People were getting way over-heated walking around in their parkas, too. It REALLY did feel warm. I can't believe that -40F felt warm to me. The winds were also unusually calm for those temperatures. Usually, when temperatures rise, the winds go up as well, so we never get a break with the wind-chill. Everyone said that they thought this would finally be the big storm of the season. But, other than an hour we spent with winds at 25+ knots, the weather just slowly, and anticlimactically got steadily colder, returning to normal. It turns out, that this day, 24 hours after hitting the record low of -100F, we came within a couple degrees of the record high.