18 AUGUST 1995

On Sunday Margie and I took a walk. We went to the edge of the ice plateau at the back of Cape Denison to look for meteorites. I was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind. When we were about 1.5 kilometres from Gadget Hut when we noticed willy willies like small tornadoes coming from around the top of the plateau. We could see some small puffs of drift at the top too. We thought it best to head back to Gadget Hut. You never know what will happen here in Antarctica. We started heading back towards home and very quickly we had willy willies all around us. When we were about half a kilometre from Gadget Hut we got hit by tremendous katabatic winds and drift snow. The visibility dropped to zero! We couldn't even see our feet on the ground. It was quite difficult for a while as we fumbled our way along with virtually no sun because of the thick drift snow. Luckily it cleared with a few minutes and left us with 30 to 50 knots of wind and 10 metres of visibility. We were able to find our way to Gadget Hut. This was the first time that we have been caught out in these conditions. It is surprising to be in a white out, especially coming from absolutely perfect weather with very little warning.

The countdown to the penguin return has begun. It is only about 7 weeks until they are due to come back. We feel as though we should be doing something like spring cleaning for their return. Margie thinks their rookery could use a good clean up. She would like to vacuum the area!

We used our HF radio to contact Australia for the first time this week. We carried out a radio check with Perth Radio. They received us quite clearly on 4 MHz as the condition that night were very good. Later on in the week, the snow and blowing drift caused considerable static when we tried to contact the "Aurora Australis" to give them our weather information. We haven't seen the "Aurora Australis" even on the distant horizon. They must be on the other side of the pack ice. Margie is still hopeful that they will pull into Commonwealth Bay with magazines and chocolates!

Our expedition yacht, "Spirit of Sydney" is being prepared for her return voyage to Antarctica. It is hard to believe that all these preparations are already taking place. We are actually starting to think about coming home! Margie is very excited and very anxious at the same time. The trip down was rough on her. "Spirit" should be ready by the end of September!

When I had my bath this week I noticed that the back of my legs are as bald as the top of my head. It seems as though the hair on my legs has rubbed off from the long socks, high boots and thermal underwear. I trimmed my beard instead of letting Margie cut my hair. I can almost make a plait my hair is getting so long. Margie laughs but I won't let her near me with the scissors.

The sad news is the maple syrup situation down here. We are just about out. It has become a favorite and when we use the very last of it tomorrow -- that's it. We are also running out of the flavourings we use to make various beverages out of our ice water. We use Tang, lemon barley and cordial as well as Berri Fruit Juice. They are all running low and we will be drinking plain water soon.

The bright sun has us worried at times because of the high UV. The UV penetration through the ozone hole over Antarctica is the worst between mid-August and mid-November so we have to be very careful. We have heard that the ozone hole could be causing frog populations to decline. The increase in the UV affects the coating on the frogs' eggs.

The increasing daylight has put up to 20 amps a day in our batteries. The Solarex solar panels are fantastic now that we have sunshine again. It has been very cold this week. It averaged minus 25 degrees Celsius. There is a 50 degree difference in the temperature today between Sydney and Antarctica if it really was 25 degrees in Sydney in August! The sea is frozen solid and I'm very tempted to go walking out on the ocean. It may happen in the next few days if we get any calms. The cold weather has made the snow very hard. When we walk on it the snow feels like cracked glass. The sastrugi which is being moulded and eroded by the wind is very intricate and quite spectacular.

The mosses and lichens are changing colour now that they're getting some sunlight. They are going from bright yellows to oranges and the greens are turning brown and black. It is quite interesting. The best part of the week: Wednesday: 24 hours with no wind and seven hours of beautiful sunshine and blue sky. It was just like summer! Fruit loaf toast. Margie almost forgot to put in the yeast when she was baking a fruit loaf. She remembered halfway through the recipe and the fruit loaf was great as toast. I would even eat a toasted fruit brick. The worst part of the week: Being caught in the white out and a total of only 25 hours of sunshine.
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