NO PEACE AND QUIET IN THE WILDERNESS

8 April 1995

There was a big blizzard last Friday with 90 knot winds and a very high barometer of 1017 millibars. That's high for down here. The temperature was minus 20 Celsius. The wind absolutely screamed and the sun was shining. It seemed wrong to be so nice and sunny with such fierce wind. It made us feel a bit down. The noise was incredible. It was the first time the noise had been so loud. We must do something about it. We're thinking of rigging curtains down the side of the hut to muffle the sound. We aren't worried about "Gadget Hut" blowing away any more. She seems very secure in the wind. It is the noise of the wind that seems to be our main concern right now.

Well, after that not-so-nice Friday we had a perfect weekend. Saturday and Sunday were probably the most fantastic days we have had. Maybe it's because Friday seemed so terrible. Anyway, it was beautiful on Saturday with a very light wind. We went out for a walk and...well I should be telling you this now with my fingers crossed. Margie said she saw a Polar bear with a cub! She said they were travelling fast over near Cape Denison, about 500 metres away. I'm not so sure I believe her. Margie doesn't tell lies... We really did see some penguins, there were about ten scattered around Cape Denison. Forty seals were out basking in the sunshine and some of the skuas came back. We thought that all the birds disappeared. We counted 11 skuas.

MAWSON'S HUT
We had a good look at Mawson's Hut. The snow has piled up on two sides of the hut so that we can walk by at roof level. So we had a good look at the roof which is quite deteriorated. I don't know what the government is going to do about restoring the hut. It looks in a sorry state, but let's hope they do something. Later on in the year we will be making a complete photographic survey of the hut. It will be the first time in ten years that a survey has been done. This will provide those concerned with the preservation of the hut with a way of determining the rate of deterioration of the timber. They will compare the photographs from 1985 with the ones that we take.

THE CRYSTALS AND THE AURORA
Walking near Boat Harbour was like walking in a crystal garden. The wind blows on the salt water and freezes it into beautifully shaped crystals. There were stalagmites and stalactites sticking up against the wind and some were quite spectacular. We felt like vandals in a china shop because just by walking around we were crushing beautiful works of art.

To finish off a beautiful day we had a fantastic display of the aurora australis Saturday night. The whole sky lit up. Picture a rainbow, three rainbows arching across the horizon. They are all yellow and green and falling down in between like a waterfall. The water is the line and it's rolling down. They are alive and moving. Can you imagine it? It was really quite good.

SEA ICE AND PENGUINS
It was calm on Sunday, even nicer than Saturday weather-wise and the sea was freezing over again. We think it is about 10 cm thick now. We saw a couple of penguins out walking on the sea ice. They must have been out feeding on krill. We notice a whole flock of them about 30 over in one corner of the harbour. We were surprised to see them back and we wonder how long they will stick around. We've been looking a the sea ice freezing over and thinking, "Wouldn't it be fantastic if it did freeze completely over during winter. We could go for long walks on the sea ice and check out the big cliffs to the west and east of us." But it won't because totally freeze over because the wind blows it away all the time.

BATHS ON MONDAY
The weather was so nice on the weekend that we put off taking a bath. Saturday is supposed to be bath day but we didn't get around to until Monday. I had to wash my hair and I only used two and a half cups of water! Of course I probably have less hair than you do but I think that's pretty good water conservation. You'd conserve water too if you had to melt ice to get it!

THE "FRIENDLY LAMP
I mentioned in a previous journal that we call our kerosene lamp, the "friendly lamp" because it is so nice compared to the harsh fluorescent lamp. Well it proved to be a very good friend this week. I noticed that the amount of light it was giving off was getting a bit low. I thought it was running out of fuel. I shook it and it was full. So I tried turning up the wick. I turned it way up and there was a lot of wick sticking out but still only a little bit of flame. Suddenly it dawned on me. Can you guess what was happening?

We were running out of oxygen! We opened the hut right up and the "friendly lamp" started to glow. The light got nice and bright. We really have to be careful about the oxygen in the hut. When we investigated why we had had such a problem we found that the vents on the roof were icing up. We played chimney sweep with a long piece of timber and banged all the ice out of the vent. We'll check that on a regular basis from now on.

QUESTIONS THIS WEEK
The best question of the week came from a New Zealand student. The question was, "What will you do if you run out of fuel?" Running out of fuel would mean dying of thirst. We wouldn't be able to get any water to drink. So to survive we'd have to kill a seal. Their layer of fat, blubber, can be used like fuel. We'd have to use blubber as fuel to melt the snow and ice. That's how we would survive but we won't run out of fuel. We have planned carefully and so far we are consuming fuel at a slower rate than we had planned.

Another good question came from Miranda Public School during our telephone conversation this week. I used my Inmarsat M satphone and called Miranda Public School because I wanted to congratulate them. They held a "Great Hairy Bear Fair" and raised funds for the local children's' hospital. I also wanted to hear about the bears that won prizes. Those Miranda teddies are a fine bunch.

The students asked about windows in "Gadget Hut." I'd like to say that I should have mentioned windows before. I forget that you haven't all seen pictures of the hut. We have four windows in the hut and they are 400 mm square. Three are in our main living area, one near the stove, one near our bed and one near our dinette. The other window is in the bathroom, cold porch room. The windows are covered in ice so we can't really see out of them. We also have a hatch on the roof just in case the snow gets really deep. If we couldn't open the door because of the snow, we'd climb out through the hatch in the roof.i

I have a question for you if you live in New Zealand.
"What is the trout fishing like in New Zealand?"
I would like to hear from the student who has caught the biggest trout since the 2nd of April. Not the first of April since the 2nd. We are planning to talk to lots of Australian students and we are working of the details with Mary Ann in the office. I hope we will be announcing some good news soon. In the meantime send your questions in on e-mail to ICEBOUND Mailbox.

The best meal of the week: Pizza! The bests thing that happened this week is that I beat Margie five straight games of checkers or draughts if you call them draughts. The worst part of the week was when Margie beat me at dominoes! Margie has been sewing while I'm writing this journal and she is telling me that her surprise is finished. Oh, no! (Laugh, laugh, laugh.) It is a new hat with a homemade teddy bear's head on the front. It has triple thick ear flaps. Triple thick, that will stop the noise of the wind. Come on you next blizzard, I'm ready for you now. I'll let you know how it works next week.

Keep warm,
Don

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