21 July 1995

The big excitement this week came on Monday night. Between eight and nine in the evening the wind started reaching 100 knots (185 kms) with dramatic turbulence. It dropped back to between zero and 5 knots in a matter of seconds and returned suddenly heading back up toward 100 knots. Margie and I went to bed and between two and three a.m. the wind became quite severe. At one stage there were two huge cracks in quick succession which made us both sit bolt upright in bed. We felt sure something important had broken and that the hut must be in serious trouble. The winds were gusting to 130 knots which is approximately 240 kilometres per hour or 150 miles an hour.

The force of the wind has caused "Gadget Hut" to spring a few leaks. When we woke up there were piles of drift snow in the hut. One pile was above the table and it covered our CD player and speakers. The other pile of snow was under the table and we didn't see it until after breakfast. We collected several buckets full of snow. We plugged the holes in the hut with Sikaflex. They were only tiny but the drift snow is finer than talcum powder. We still haven't been outside to check what the cracking noise was because the wind is still severe, four days later. The hut seems quite stable, so either it was our imagination playing tricks on us or the ice on the hut was cracking away from the beams inside the hut and outside as well.

Even though the wind has been strong, we've experienced over eight hours of sunlight this week. The drift snow has disappeared. Maybe the wind has blown it all away! The visibility outside is good. The sea looks absolutely spectacular. The salt water is being picked up by the breeze and just blown away creating what we are calling 'sea smoke.' Our coldest temperature this week was minus 40 degrees Celsius. In countries that don't use the metric system they talk about temperature in Fahrenheit. Zero Celsius is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes. The Celsius and Fahrenheit scales cross at minus 40. So minus 40 degree Celsius is the same as 40 below zero in Fahrenheit.

We had to run the generator when it was minus 32 Celsius! We used a lot of gas from the blow torch heating up the generator. It was so cold that recoil starter would not retract into the motor. We had to warm up the cord and the spring. The batteries didn't like the low temperatures. They started to freeze up with voltages dropping below 10.5 volts. it meant four hours of heating the batteries before we could put power in. Even then it was difficult but it all worked out okay.

We had a fine day last Saturday. Margie and I walked on the water over to Boat Harbour. The frozen ocean has large pressure ridges which rise up into the air about 240 cm (8 feet). They are formed by the frozen ice on the top of the sea breaking up and being blown against other chunks of broken ice by the tides and the wind. So walking on water isn't smooth going and Margie took a tumble. She bruised her back and her elbow but she is okay. It was so cold during our walk that our eyelashes were freezing. My beard froze to my balaclava.

Since many of our plastic things are breaking because of the cold I have become concerned about the cables that connect the satellite phone aerials to the phone in the hut. They are coaxial cables of flexible wire. In these temperatures they turn into rigid sticks. I'm really scared that one of them will break. We will begin our telephone calls to Australian school next week and we need the satellite phone.

This week we've started official tests with the our satellite phone to determine whether the Inmarsat M satellite telephone system is suitable to be used for the Global Maritime Distress Satellite System (GMDSS) for ships at sea. We are the furthest south of anyone ever to use the Inmarsat M unit. We are doing these tests with Inmarsat who are the international controllers of the satellites which are used by our COMSAT satellite telephone. Every day we give a call to a recording machine in England. They test the quality of our outgoing call. We give them a report on the quality of their incoming message. The phone has been working really well for the past six months and we feel sure that the test results will be good.

This week we spoke to a friend, Peter Gill who is a whale specialist. He and some other scientists are about to leave Australia on the ice breaker "Aurora" which is Australia's Antarctic supply ship. They will cruise along the pack ice between 120 and 150 East longitude looking for whales. Margie has been thinking of all sorts of schemes to lure the scientists to Commonwealth Bay. She would like to tell them about weird whales and seals we can't even begin to identify in the hopes that they might come and visit. She thinks that once the ice breaker is within swimming distance, she would make a go for it.

We had our first fuel spill. About a half a cup of kerosene spilled on the floor of "Gadget Hut" when we were filling the kerosene containers. We mopped up with paper towels and put them in a plastic bag to take back to Australia. The worst part of the spill is the smell. In the morning when we wake up the hut still smells. It is slowly disappearing. Our vacuum flask is slowly losing its vacuum and will not keep our water hot. It was quite handy and saved us from heating the kettle every time we wanted a hot drink. We have six more months to go and this was our 'back up' vacuum flask. The first one lasted until the end of February. We will miss the convenience. I had to take a bath! Margie started to use perfume! For 21 days I managed to avoid bathing but now I'm clean.

We have started to eat our second year's supply of Uncle Toby's oats. We've only used a few bags so far but we seem to have miscalculated how much we would enjoy hot cereal! We have lots of food but we are not eating nearly as much as we expected. We seem to pick our favourites. We have heaps of Cadbury's chocolate that we eat each night but we don't have enough chocolate biscuits. What a drama!

We had pork chops with Birds Eye frozen vegetables, plum pudding and custard. What a feed. The auroras are back again since the moon has gone. They are spectacular. I wish you could see them. Margie is going to write to you! All our buckets are full, the toilet buckets and the slops / gray water buckets. The wind is blowing 80 knots and I have to make a run to empty the buckets and to collect snow and ice. Bye for now.

Keep warm,
Back to Index Ever Onwards