24 MARCH 1995
The weather has kept us inside again this week. We've only been outside once for three hours. We've had another big blizzard. The lowest temperature inside the cabin has been minus 5 Celsius, the highest winds outside have been up around 81 knots (which is 148.6 kilometres per hour) and the lowest temperature outside got down to minus 16. One day we had a melt down, the temperature outside was minus 2 and all the ice inside the hut melted. We spent the day mopping up! E-MAIL QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS Everyone asks about the weather and I think I've just given you a picture of what we are going through right now.
Another question that is often asked is, "What sort of shoes do you use?" from Gymea Technology High School and from Springbrook School in New Zealand, "When you are outside how do you get around on the ice?"
Here's the answer.
It is hard to get around outdoors in this weather. I try to get out everyday. I walk down to the sea which is about 120 metres away to get rid of our "gray" water: the water from washing dishes which has been filtered to remove any food particles and grease; and human waste water. I have a very fast downwind trip but when I come back I'm leaning about 45 degrees into the wind. Sometimes I have to squat down because the wind is knocking me around so much. I squat down to present a lower surface area to the wind. It has actually blown me over a few times and for the first time ever I've seen penguins getting blown over when they're walking. They've been trying to get out of this blizzard and the wind has knocked them down flat on their faces.
Nature didn't provide penguins with anything like crampons. CRAMPONS I've been wearing my crampons when I go out for the last few weeks. You put them on over your boots. Crampons are used by mountaineers and ice climbers. They are a set of twelve spikes that are strapped over your boots. Ten of the spikes point downwards and the two at the front stick out forward at a 90 degree angle. The spikes are made of flat stainless steel shaped into sharp V shaped spikes. Mountaineers who are going to be walking on uneven surfaces like glaciers use crampons that have a hinge to give them some flexibility. I'm using this type. The other type is rigid and is used by ice climbers who are climbing up frozen waterfalls. Crampons are attached to your boots with neoprene or nylon straps. BOOTS I'm using Sorel boots.
Modern technology has done a lot to keep feet warm and dry. The Sorel boots are made in Canada and they developed them around field tests at the North Pole by Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakov. Temperatures up there frequently reach -60 degree F and the wind chill can take that down to -130 degree F. Moisture build up at these extreme temperatures can be fatal. So Sorel designed boots that are boots within boots. They have no fixed internal insulation. All the insulation is removable. This is great because we can take them apart and dry them out.

Here's a brief run down on the theory of keeping feet warm. Trapped air is an excellent insulator. Insulation compresses under weight which reduces the trapped air. Soft foam compresses easily so it isn't as good as felt. Sorel boots use what they call a "Frostplug" insole in their boots which have the trademark name, ThermoPlus. The "Frostplug" is made of special felt absorbs perspiration and moisture. We remove the "Frostplugs" after we have been out to let them dry. Beneath the "Frostplug" is "The Furnace" which is 9mm of closed cell cross link foam that retains body heat for an extended period. It is also an excellent thermal barrier with the ground. Above the "Frostplug" is a 9mm outer liner of high density ThermoPlus felt and a 6mm inner liner. All of these liners are removable so we can dry them out. The boot is made of handcrafted natural rubber bottoms and Dacron uppers that can breath. Sorel named the style "Mukluk" which is an Eskimo name for footwear. We wear two pair of polypropylene socks, thin ones first then a thicker pair. Polypropylene wicks moisture away from the body. Amazing.
There is a list of clothing that was issued to Mawson and his men in a book that was left at this site probably by the Antarctic Division. The book is MAWSON'S ANTARCTIC DIARIES, edited by Fred Jacka and Eleanor Jacka that was published in 1988 by Allen & Unwin Australia Pty. Ltd. and the copyright belongs to the University of Adelaide and the source material belongs to the estate of Sir Douglas Mawson. This book may be available at your library. I noticed that Mawson and his men had leather boots and felt liners. He had wool gloves and wolf-skin gloves! The wolf- skin gloves were to be used on sledging trips. One curious note on the clothing list states, "After washing, clothing is never so warm. Important sledging journeys should therefore be begun in new clothing...Reserve as much new clothing as you can for the real work of the expedition. You have plenty of time at the hut to wash and mend...Any old clothes will do about the hut." I find that very interesting. I'll tell you about our clothing next week. Lots of you have asked us about that. DAYLIGHT, SUNSHINE -- ICE AND WIND It is getting dark around 7 p.m. and it doesn't get light again until about 7 a.m. We are getting just enough sunshine to keep our batteries charged from the Solarex solar panels but I think in another week or so we'll have to use the fossil fuel generator. The ice on our lake is now so thick that it's not worth the effort of chopping through it. We've started melting snow for water. I tie a 5 gallon bucket to myself so if the wind gets the bucket it won't blow away. With a spade or the shovel, I fill the bucket with clean snow and ice as close to the hut as I can. Then, inside the hut I fill up the saucepan and stand it on the heater. It takes about 20 minutes to melt one litre of snow. We had one tiny little calm this week. The wind dropped back to about 10 to 15 knots (18 to 27 kilometres per hour) but unfortunately we didn't get to go outdoors and enjoy it because it was between midnight and four o'clock in the morning. It woke us up. The relative lack of the noise was such a change that it woke us up. It screams inside the hut and we're trying to think of ways to decrease the noise. It might get a bit monotonous during winter. Margie says it's like living in a steam train. The roof isn't moving much since I put the strengthening beam in but it makes a loud cracking noise in the night. It is under a big strain with all this wind. OUR PENGUIN FRIENDS Nature is not being kind to our moulting penguin friends. I am sorry to report that two have died. The winds during this blizzard have been extremely strong and the penguins have to sit down. The snow covers them over and the heat loss from their bodies makes them freeze a bit into the snow. When they get up their feathers are frozen into the icy snow and pull out. One penguin has been sheltering right beside the hut, underneath the hut and around the front door. His feather are all over the place at the moment. THE BEST PART OF THIS WEEK Actually there were three best parts of this week: 1. Our Sunday evening chat-hour with family and friends. 2. Roast pork with crackling for dinner and 3. Our pictures appeared in THE NEW WEEKLY magazine with the cover date of 27 March. It was on sale this week. THE WORST THING THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK I dropped by snow goggles, my wonderful Bolle snow goggles in the toilet bucket. On that nice thought I'll leave you until next week. Keep warm, Don
Back to Index Ever Onward