17 FEBRUARY 1995
This has been an amazing week for us. We don't feel lonely at all because of the wonder of modern technology. We have an Inmarsat M communications system that is now operating from inside our survival hut. Telecom New Zealand is going to put us in touch with thirty-five schools. We are looking forward to talking to you from Antarctica. On the 10th of February we spoke with students in the United States! Students assembled in three different states: Montana, New Jersey and Rhode Island for a teleconference. With just one telephone call we spoke to all of them at the same time. We were able to answer their questions and tell them all about life below the Antarctic Circle. Some of them asked questions that you be wondering about too.

It is a big job when you are more than 2,500 kilometres from the nearest washing machine. First we had to get water from the lake we can only scoop out a cupful at a time. The ice is getting thicker every day and it is harder to chop through it. Then we lug the big water container back to the hut and heat the water in pots on the kerosene stove. We used SUNLIGHT soap instead of detergent. Washed the clothes by hand and then had a real problem. We can't hang them out to dry. They freeze stiff and when they thaw, they are wet. We had to hang them in front of the heater a few at a time. It took FOUR DAYS to dry the laundry. We think it should be in the book of world records.

The clothes are clean but now we have to get rid of the dirty water. Once we have filtered it we have to take it down to the tide crack (a place where the sea comes in between the rocks). It's about 120 metres to the sea.

Margie told them we keep it in the "garbarge truck." That's what she says the 'lean-to' we built looks like. We brought some sheets of plywood with us on "Spirit of Sydney" and have leaned them up against one side of the hut. It reminds Margie of the garbage trucks where we used to live near Manly in Sydney, Australia. The 'lean-to' was a great idea but we didn't realise that snow can get through tiny cracks. After our first blizzard there was heaps of snow on top of our supplies out in the 'lean-to.' We had to dig it all out so that it won't freeze solid when the really cold weather comes. We have just finished putting silicon sealant in all the cracks to keep the snow out.

When the ice-breaker, Kaptain Khlebnikov, brought us our supply of frozen meat we buried it in the snow. After the blizzard we couldn't find it. It was under an snow drift more than two metres deep. We dug it out but now there is another problem. These giant birds, petrels, have been hanging around and attacking the young penguins. The penguins try to gang up on them and chase them away but they aren't always successful. The petrels are meat eaters. They must be able to smell our meat. This morning when we went outside we found big footprints, bigger than my hand all around the area where we have stashed our meat supply. We are wondering if they are going to figure out how to dig it out of the snow.

So far the coldest has been minus fifteen degrees celsius but it is still technically summer. When we wake up in the morning it is minus five in our hut. We turn on the kerosene heater and it gets really nice, twenty degrees, but then the ceiling starts to defrost and drip on our heads. Our mattress is moulding and we feel like we are living in a freezer. Margie wants to defrost it today so that is our project for now. Once we get all the ice out of here I'm going to go up on the flat roof and fill all the seams between the prefabricated panels with silicon sealant.

The temperature is just one part of how cold it feels down here. The wind has a big influence on how cold it is. The wind here is katabatic wind. Some times people describe katabatic wind as gravity wind but really it wind that blows downhill because the air higher up the hill gets cooled. Commonwealth Bay is near the ice plateau and the shape of the surrrounding area acts like a funnel--that's why this is the windiest place on earth. The wind was blowing at 60 knots the other day and even though it was only minus fifteen the wind chill made it minus forty.

It can blow up eighty knots for an hour and then within ten seconds it will die down to ten knots, then a big bullet of wind at it's back to seventy or eighty knots. The hut gives a lurch and rocks and groans. We sit here and wonder how much the hut can take. We've got twelve tie-downs to the rocks. The roof flexes and so do the walls as the hut moves in the wind. Once the snow comes and freezes around us we should be alright. These first few weeks are like taking a new yacht to sea. The first trip is called a "shake down cruise." You literally find out what is wrong during that trip and fix it before you go on a really big ocean trip. Well, we are here and we are having our "shake down" before winter and the real test of our hut.

My left ear was uncovered a bit when I was out the other day. When I came in I said to Margie, "Gee my ears are freezing." Two days later she realised that I had blisters on my ears. That's frost nip. The wind-chill factor gets bad that you can get frost nip in a matter of seconds. The skin on the top of my fingers is starting to wear through. We wear gloves all the time when we're outside working in the snow but we still lose sensitivity a bit. Some of the outer layers of skin may be freezing a bit, we're not sure what is causing it.

Just two weeks ago we had one hour of darkness and this week we have almost three hours of darkness between one and four a.m. The harbour where "Spirit of Sydney" anchored is now frozen over. When it is windy and we go outside it looks like there's smoke from a bush fire. It is drift snow. It is as fine as icing sugar and it gets into everything. We even found it under Margie's pillow in the hut because there was a little crack in the wall. I've got a lot of silcon sealant and a lot of cracks to track down. I'll go and get busy. Keep warm, Don
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